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The History of Leeks


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Leeks are a member of the onion and garlic family

Origin of name
comes from an old Germanic word Lauka

Irish, Wales?

Leeks in Egyptian Times
Leeks were likely cultivated in ancient Egyptian times. There are writings that state that services were paid in a barter like fashion with items like oxen, beer and leeks.

There are Egyptian tombs that have pictures of leeks on them also records show the Israelites
when fleeing Egypt, regretted leaving cucumbers, melons and leeks.


Some Books used in this article

Food: A Culinary History (European Perspectives)  

The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia



The Irish Country Kitchen  


Feasting Galore Irish-Style: Recipes and Food Lore from the Emerald Isle  



Leeks in Roman Times
The emperor Nero was a lover of leeks. He ate so
many he was often referred to as the leek eater.
He believed they would improve his singing voice.

Leeks In the oldest cookbook in the world

The famous cookbook writer in 3rd century Rome, Apicus
credited with writing the world's first cookbook,
recorded that the best leeks came from Egypt, and
they were a vegetable to be served in their own right
like asparagus. While onions are garlic were
considered just a vegetable for seasoning.

This is translated from a book of Apicus recipes, from the Kansas State Library

Vegetable Dinner, easily digested - page 23

All green vegetables are suited for this purpose very young beets and well matured leeks are parboiled; arrange them in a baking dish, grind pepper and cumin, add broth and condensed must, or anything else to sweeten them a little, heat and finish them on a slow fire, and serve.

Leeks in the European commonwealth

No one knows for sure whether leeks came to the north by way of Egypt or how.
There are some that believe that Phoenicians

It would be easy to come to the conclusion that they are indigenous to the region
because they thrive in the cold weather. they can last in the ground up to 10 below 0
F. and can be planted early in winter so they can be growing in early spring.

Leeks actually do not grow well when it gets too warm.

How Leeks are Cultivated

Leeks are planted in Rows like asparagus. The soil is often heaped up around the stem so there is more white bulb.


What are Wild Leeks?

Wild leeks grow around the Irish sea and in Wales as well as many places around the world

An Irish legend

The Irish love leeks and use it widely in many recipes.
there is an old Irish legend that says that St. Patrick was consoling a dying woman. She told him that in a vision she had seen an herb floating in the air, and that it had been revealed to her that unless she ate it she would die. The saint asked her what kind of herb it was. She told him that it looked like rushes. Thus St. Patrick transformed some rushes into leeks; she ate them and was cured.

This legend may be why the Irish have adopted the leek as their own.


Why is the leek on the national emblem of Wales ?

Wales, an island off the shore from Ireland has the leek as well as the daffodil is their national emblem.

On St. David's Day, Welshmen wear a daffodil or leek Stem in their buttonholes in memory of the victory of King Caldwallader over the Saxons in 640 A.D.

In this battle the Welsh avoided striking the wrong fighters by wearing leeks in their caps so they could tell who they are. That should hold up in the Geneva convention.

However it probably gained it's notoriety because of it's importance in the Welsh diet especially during lent.

St. David's Day Parade Cardiff, Wales

Grilled Leeks

Brotchan Foldchep
leek and potato or oatmeal soup


Food: A Culinary History , Jean-Louis Flandrin & Massimo Montanari, chapter 2: The Social Functions of Banquets in the Earliest Civilizations (Mesopotamian feasts) (p. 32-7)

The Oldest Cuisine in the World: Cooking in Mesopotamia , Jean Bottero (includes modernized recipes)
Plugging the leaks about leeks

Plugging Leaks about Leeks,
Published: March 25, 2008


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March 13, 2009