Leeks are related to onions and garlic, though leeks tend to be a bit sweeter than an onion. While we usually eat the bulbs of garlic and onions, with a leek there is no bulb but everything above the root and stem base is edible to varying degrees, with the darkest green portion edible to a lesser extent.
Leeks are native to Central Asia and were highly regarded by the Greeks and Romans for their beneficial effect on the throat. And the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle actually said he believed the clear voice of the partridge was due to a diet high in leeks. It is believed that the Romans introduced leeks to the Europeans, where they became very popular because they could withstand the cold temperatures. Leeks actually became the national emblem in the country of Wales, and they continue to be highly regarded in many European countries today. Leeks have a lot of the same health benefits as onions and garlic but are less dense so larger amounts of leeks need to be consumed to get the same benefit. These benefits include many of the same chemical compounds, such as sulfides and other sulfur compounds, which help to prevent and fight cancer. They help to block the hormones and chemicals in the body that can cause cancer. These sulfur compounds also help decrease the risk of blood clots which helps to reduce the risk for strokes and other cardiovascular problems. Leeks help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and improve immunity.Leeks are a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, and K, folic acid, calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, and fiber. Leeks are also high in two carotenoids that are essential for eye health: lutein and zeaxanthin.
Be sure to wash leeks well before using them, as dirt may be stuck between the tight leaves. The more of the green section of the leek that you use, the more of the beneficial nutrients you will get. Leeks can be eaten raw, steamed, baked, or stir-fried, but boiling leeks will cause a majority of the nutrients to be lost. The darker green parts take a little bit longer to cook than the whiter portion, so, if chopped, add the green parts to the pan first.
- 1 lemons, the juice from it
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 4 leeks, the white parts only, sliced, well rinsed, and dried
- 2 ripe tomatoes
- 1 firm medium cucumbers
- 1/2 cup pitted black olives
- 1/2 cup chopped cilantro