Posts Tagged ‘perennial leeks’

Perennial Leeks

Last year, my friend Christine at Slow Living Essentials put us onto perennial leeks.

In garden terms, these have been life-changing.   We bought seven tiny leek seedlings from Cornucopia Seeds (sadly, they don’t seem to stock them anymore!), planted them in the yard, and watched them grow.  They’re smaller than regular leeks, but sweet and delicious nonetheless, and we use them right up to the green tips.

I think our leeks are a slightly different variety to Christine’s, so I decided to take some photos for you.  Here’s one we pulled out last week (it reminds me of a Muppet)…

Unlike regular leeks, these grow with a bulbous base, particularly at this time of year, when they’re madly reproducing…

As we peeled back the base, we found 24 bulbils, half of which were already shooting.  All of these will grow into new leeks – we simply poke a hole in the soil with a stick, drop in a bulb and water it in…

Before we had perennial leeks, we planted regular ones, which have taken a full year to get to a picking size.  Here’s a comparison of the two.  Remember that even though the traditional leek is larger, there are oodles more of the perennial ones in our yard, and they’re growing much faster.

After a quick phone call to our friend the Spice Girl for advice, we turned a few leeks and a couple of onions into bhajis. We mixed the sliced vegetables into a thick batter made with:

  • besan (chickpea) flour
  • salt
  • lots of cumin
  • coriander
  • a little turmeric
  • chilli powder
  • a little bicarb of soda (baking soda)
  • water (added sparingly)

Heaped spoonfuls of the batter were then deepfried until golden brown. They were very moreish with a garlic and yoghurt dipping sauce…

Our perennial leeks taste just like the regular kind, but reproduce like onion weed (albeit less vigorously).  They’re thriving in our small suburban backyard, and more than make up for the fact that we haven’t been able to grow onions!

Edit: According to Jerry Coleby-Williams, the variety we grow here in Australia is Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum.

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Pete and I are pretty new at this garden thing.  That’s not to say we haven’t jumped into the project with manic enthusiasm, but there have been some bleedingly obvious things we’ve missed.

When we first set up the garden, the weather was semi-tropical – hot with lots of rain, and everything grew like crazy.  Granted we had problems with powdery mildew, and the tomatoes were waterlogged, not to mention the whole garden flooding…but on the whole, we had abundant, reassuring growth.

Then, out of the blue, a heatwave hit, and everything in the garden just frizzled.

And…don’t laugh…we really didn’t know what had happened!  We had long discussions about the ph levels of the soil, and whether our plants were suffering from a viral wilt, or nematodes.  Then it dawned on us – we just hadn’t been watering them enough.  We felt like idiots, but understand that we had barely had to water the garden at all up until then, and it had been going gangbusters!

Pete now believes that because our soil was  in pretty poor condition to begin with, everything just died as the soil dried up.  It wasn’t very well conditioned yet or rich in organic material, so it simply wasn’t able to cope with the extreme temperature change.

Water itself wasn’t a problem – we had installed two 2000 litre water tanks earlier in the year, so we had a reasonable supply.  The tricky part was delivering it – a permanent irrigation system in the garden wasn’t possible because the chickens were rotating every few months, and they would dig out anything left in a bed prior to their arrival.

My clever husband and his equally clever brother Uncle Steve solved the problem in a most ingenious way.

Pete designed, and Uncle Steve installed, a modular system consisting of the following:

1. a permanent irrigation loop under the path, circling past all the beds,

2. a snap lock connector attached to the side of each bed, joined into the loop via a T-connector, and

3. a separate unit, consisting of a piece of pipe joined to a circle of soaker hose, hooked up to the snap lock connector at the side of each bed. The soaker hose – also known as a leaky hose – is an irrigation product designed to deliver a very slow constant watering to a given area.

All the beds are hooked up in a connected loop back to the tanks, and all receive a good solid soaking once or twice a week.

When the chooks are rotated onto a given bed, the circle of hose is removed, and the connector for that bed is capped off with a bespoke plug, bypassing it for the period that the chickens are in residence.  Isn’t that clever?

To further improve water retention, we’ve invested in lucerne hay to use as mulch.  It’s expensive and will break down quickly, which means we’ll have to replace it regularly. However, as it breaks down it will improve the quality of the soil, and we think it’s worth doing that in the short term to try and bring our soil quality up to scratch.

After just a couple of good soakings, the garden has bounced back with a vengeance!

The sorrel, which had completely yellowed, is now green and lush again…

A portion of each bed is given over to growing chook food, and the lucerne planted here has taken off…

Our poor eggplants, after doing so well all year, suffered badly from the lack of water.  Yet after just a few deep waterings, they’ve started flowering again!  You can see the curled brown leaves, and the new growth starting to come through…

And this particular plant had tiny fruit which just didn’t develop for weeks – with water, they’re now all growing again…

The basil has recovered well and is now refusing to die!  Despite flowering, several of the plants are still producing large aromatic leaves…

The carrots which we forgot to harvest (I told you we were new at this!) are now a decent size…

I thought all the perennial leeks had died off, so I was chuffed today to find both a large one in amongst the purslane, and a cluster of self-seeded ones growing in the newly irrigated beds…

Finally, another lesson learnt – like most novice gardeners, when we first started, we bought seedlings.  We knew it was always going to be cheaper to grow from seed, but at the beginning, it was hard to believe that the price difference was actually going to be significant.

These strawberries are a great example.  When we first planted them, we bought strawberry seedlings at an exorbitant price – some of the slightly larger ones were $4 each.  To make things worse, none of them have done particularly well in the garden.

We’re trying again, but this time with a box of homegrown seedlings, costing just a few cents each.  Even if they don’t grow well again, at least we’re only out of pocket the price of a packet of seeds!


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To those of you who’ve been gardening for years, thank you for putting up with our excited ramblings.  I know this isn’t really a big deal, but because it’s all so new for Pete and I, being able to go out and harvest all these vegetables from our garden was an incredible thrill!

As we didn’t make it to the markets last week, our vegetable crisper was decidedly empty, which made being able to wander outside to pick all these edible greens even more of a buzz.  And we certainly haven’t emptied the first bed – just selectively chosen the plants that were ready, and the ones that needed pulling out to allow room for others to grow.

There was (and still is) a mountain of spinach and curly parsley growing…

We cut the sprouting broccoli (apparently you need to keep trimming it, or it flowers and dies), thinned the overcrowded carrots, and pulled a couple of baby beets to try.  Pete also pulled out a perennial leek, replanting all of her babies for another day…

Finally, six small heads of lettuce came out, leaving room for the others to continue growing…

Our perfect Sunday lunch…Caesar salad, with homegrown mixed lettuce (cos, oak, butter), homemade sourdough croutons and a dressing made with Harriet’s freshly laid egg…

…and lunch today was a stir-fry of mung bean vermicelli, spinach, broccoli, teeny weeny carrots, leek and egg, seasoned with peanuts, fish sauce and lime juice.  Happy days!

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