by Dr Mercola

If you’ve never tried leeks, you may be interested to know that you can grow them all-year-round, although their hardiness to cold makes them a great Autumn/Winter crop. If you live in an area with mild winters, you can even leave leeks in the ground during Winter and harvest them in early spring. It is a great time to consider growing (and eating more) leeks.

Taking a Peek at Leeks, the Tall, Leafy Cousin of Garlic and Onions

Leeks (Allium ampeloprasum porrum) are a member of the allium family of vegetables, closely related to garlic, onions, scallions and shallots. Given their thick green sheaths and long floppy leaves, leeks stand out in the crowd. In fact, leeks grow 12 to 30 inches tall, 9 to 12 inches wide and 1 to 2 inches in diameter.1

Often considered to be a root vegetable, leeks don’t typically form a bulb. When it’s been blanched and kept tender, you’ll find the bottom 6 inches of a leek’s leaf sheath to be the most edible and enjoyable part of the plant. When preparing leeks for eating, you can compost the tough upper leaves or use them to make stock.

Leeks are biennial and will grow a flower stalk in the second year. That said, you’ll want to harvest them in the first year. Only allow leeks to bloom if you are interested in saving seed; otherwise, treat them as an annual.

Leeks have a long history of culinary use around the world, including in northern Europe. Thought to originate in the Mediterranean and Central Asia, leeks were also cultivated by the ancient Egyptians and Greeks and popularised by the Romans.

Tasty Ways to Prepare and Enjoy Leeks

When preparing leeks for eating, the hardest part may be removing the mud and grit they’ve attracted while in the ground. An effective way to clean leeks is to start by cutting them in half lengthwise and rinsing them well. Another option is to soak them in cold water for several minutes and then rinse them.

Nutrition Facts for Leeks

Leeks are a good source of vitamins A, B, C and K, as well as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and potassium. Due to the presence of folate, adequate intake of leeks during pregnancy may help prevent neural tube defects in newborns. In addition, the B vitamins in leeks may support heart health by keeping your levels of homocysteine in balance, which is important because elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with heart disease, blood clots and stroke.


Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw

Amt. Per 

% Daily 


Calories 61
Calories from Fat 3
Total Fat 0 g


Saturated Fat 0 g

0 g

Trans Fat    
Cholesterol 0 mg


Sodium 20 mg



Serving Size: 3.5 ounces (100 grams), raw

Amt. Per 

% Daily 


Total Carbohydrates 14 g


Dietary Fiber 2 g


Sugar 4 g
Protein 1 g
Vitamin A33% Vitamin C


Calcium6% Iron


*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Eating Leeks May Help Protect You from Cancer and Heart Disease

Leeks are versatile, tasty and easy to prepare and have much to offer in the way of nutrition. Similar to garlic, the therapeutic effects of leeks centres around its sulphur-containing compounds like allicin.

Allicin is a well-known antibacterial, antifungal, antimicrobial and antioxidant agent. When digested, allicin produces sulfenic acid, a compound known for its fast action to neutralise free radicals.

Leeks also contain kaempferol, a natural flavonoid found in broccoli, cabbage and kale.

Kaempferol has been shown to help your body resist cancer and other chronic diseases. As reported in Mini Reviews in Medicinal Chemistry:

“Some epidemiological studies have found a positive association between the consumption of foods containing kaempferol and a reduced risk of developing several disorders such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Numerous pre-clinical studies have shown that kaempferol and some glycosides of kaempferol have a wide range of pharmacological activities, including antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial, anticancer, cardioprotective, neuroprotective, antidiabetic, antiosteoporotic, estrogenic/antiestrogenic, anxiolytic, analgesic and antiallergic activities.”

Kaempferol is also known to protect your blood vessel linings from damage, possibly by increasing the production of nitric oxide, which helps your blood vessels to dilate and relax. In a meta-analysis of 19 studies involving 543,220 subjects, researchers found consuming large amounts of allium vegetables, including leeks, may significantly reduce your risk of gastric cancer. Another study suggests the consumption of allium vegetables like leeks can protect against other types of cancer too:

“Allium vegetables have been shown to have beneficial effects against several diseases, including cancer. Garlic, onions, leeks and chives have been reported to protect against stomach and colorectal cancers …

The protective effect appears to be related to the presence of organosulfur compounds and mainly allyl derivatives, which inhibit carcinogenesis in the fore-stomach, oesophagus, colon, mammary gland and lung of experimental animals.”

Autumn/Winter is a great time to plant and eat leeks. Given their many health benefits and culinary versatility, you’re sure to enjoy growing leeks. Don’t wait any longer to add some leeks to your life!