Thursday, 17 June 2010

Discover Summer Leek 'Gros Long d’Ete'

  • Gros Long d’Ete is a remarkable, long stemmed leek that comes from France. 
  • It is an early variety, a summer leek with long, slender white stems 30cm (15in), topped with erect, mid green leaves. 
  • They are not winter-hardy but will handle a light frost and will stay ready for use until Christmas.
  • Gros Long d’Ete leeks are an excellent choice for short season climates. 
  • They mature in 125 days, 75 days from set out. 
  • From earliest sowings they are ready in June to July, and later sowings, August to September.
  • You can also direct sow without the need to transplant, or sow densely for delicious, succulent baby leeks to use as a garnish or for soups or salads.
  • Mild enough for use in salads and a welcome addition to soups, or sautéed as a side dish. 
  • They stay sweet, tender and white all season long.
 Preparing the soil
  • If possible, prepare the soil for planting in the winter. 
  • Dig the site well, removing weeds and working in plenty of well-rotted manure to improve its ability to retain water. 
  • Leeks can be planted in heavy soil, but improve the drainage by mixing in some horticultural sand. 
  • This is a hungry crop – spread a general balanced fertiliser over the soil a week or so before sowing and rake in. A rate of 60g per square metre is ideal.
  • If you live where the autumns are long and cool and frost is rare, you can plant two crops. Sow the first crop 12 to 14 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  • In mid-July, sow the second crop indoors. 
  • If your area could experience frost during the winter, plant a frost-tolerant variety for your second sowing (‘King Richard’ together with ‘Musselburgh’ a winter leek, makes an excellent combination for extended harvest)
  • Sow seeds indoors 12 to 14 weeks before the last frost date
  • Seeds can also be sown direct later but will give smaller plants
Sowing Indoors:
  • Sow the seeds thinly and evenly 1/4 inch deep in moistened potting mix and cover them lightly with vermiculite or sand. 
  • Keep the soil temperature at about 70°F until the seeds germinate. Move the seedlings under grow lights or into a very bright window.
  • Thinning the seedlings will encourage more rapid growth, but it isn't necessary if you keep them well fertilized. 
  • When the grass-like seedlings get to be 15cm (6in) long, cut them back by 4cm (1½ - 2 in) You can use the part you cut off as you would chives.
  • Harden off the plants before transplanting into the garden starting in late April or early May (the plants will tolerate light frost). 
  • You can also transplant later or sow seed directly outdoors for smaller plants. 
  • When the seedlings are about the diameter of a pencil, they are ready to transplant outside. 
  • Planting deeply helps to blanch the stems. 
  • Use a dibber (or a rake handle - great for making perfect holes). and make holes 15cm (6in) deep and 22cm (9in) apart. 
  • Make the rows 38cm (15in) apart. Mark the row clearly so that, when weeding later you don’t remove plants by mistake
  • Drop the leek seedlings into the holes leaving just the tips of the leaves showing. 
  • Do not fill in the holes or try to cover the roots with soil or even firm them in. 
  • Just fill each hole with water from the watering can and this will wash some soil over the roots and be just enough to tighten the little plants in. 
  • Over time the holes will fill up gradually.
Sowing Direct:
  •  On the allotment seeds are best sown in rows, 35 to 40cm apart. 
  • Mark a straight line and use the corner of a rake to make a shallow groove in the soil, about 1cm deep.
  •  Sow seed thinly along the trench, cover with soil, water and label. 
  • When seedlings have three leaves each, about four to five weeks later, thin to leave plants every 15cm – the seedlings you remove could be used to plug gaps elsewhere.
  • Keep the leek bed moist in dry weather and hoe regularly to keep the weeds down. 
  • Except for exhibition plants there is no need to feed the leek plants. 
  • But if you want to be sure of a good crop you can feed with weak liquid manure and hoe in a small dressing of nitrate of soda.
  • After the holes the leeks were planted in have filled up, push some soil up to the stems with the hoe. This will make sure you will have a good length of white (blanched) stem. Do this earthing up gradually over a period of three weeks because if done too much to soon, the leek plants may rot. 
  • Mulch will help to retain moisture over summer.
Rotation considerations:
  • Avoid following onions, shallots, garlic and chives.
Good Companions:
  • Beet, carrot, celery, garlic, onion, parsley and tomato.
Bad Companions:
  • Beans, peas
  • Pull up as and when required. 
  • Harvest them by lifting carefully with a fork, aiming to avoid damaging neighbouring crops.
  • September to April            
  • Plants will be ready to harvest 110-135 days from transplant. 
  • Pull up as and when required. 
  • Harvest them by lifting carefully with a fork, aiming to avoid damaging neighbouring crops. 
  • Eat them when they're no more than 2cm (¾in) in diameter, rather than the monstrous inch or more of the industrially produced leek sold in supermarkets.  
  • At this size, the leeks are more tender and flavourful.
  • The leek, Allium porrum, originated in the Mediterranean basin, it is one of our most ancient cultivated vegetables, already much consumed in many variants by the ancient Greeks and Romans. 
  • The genus name, Allium comes from the Celtic "All," meaning pungent, the species name comes from The Roman name for leek "porrum"
  • "The most esteemed leeks are those grown in Egypt," wrote Pliny, the first-century Roman. His contemporary, the Emperor Nero, ate so many leeks he was nicknamed Porophagus -- leek eater.
  • The Anglo Saxon word for Leek was "Por leac" while the name for onion was "Yul leac".
  • The medieval Anglo Saxon kitchen garden was called the "Leek-garden" and the gardener the "Leek-ward."  
  • To this day many English towns derive their name from the Leek including, Leckhampstead, Latton and Leighton Buzzard.
  • The word "porridge" originally referred to a vegetable soup containing leeks.
  • In French, the leek is called le poireau, harking back to its Latin name. It is also known as ‘l'asperge des pauvre’ meaning "poor man's asparagus".  There is even a French word to describe the edible part of the leek.  It's called le fût; which also means "barrel."
  • France has more cultivars of leeks than any other country in the world. 
  • Leeks are omnipresent in potagers from the north to the south and are a staple of the northern third of the country. 
  • They are a staple French comfort food and de rigeur in the classic pot-au-feu, the French version of the boiled beef dinner. 
  • I'm willing to bet that the French consume more leeks than any other vegetable.  
  • Tuck into a plate of leeks vinaigrette and you'll see why.
Obtain from Seedaholics on the web

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