The leek we're all familiar with that you can readily buy in the shops is an annual plant, meaning that new seeds need to be grown every year to grow new leeks.
But did you know that leeks have a perennial cousin?
The perennial leek is a variant of allium ampeloprasum - the other being elephant garlic. I didn't know about it either, until I happened upon a market stall on the south coast, about 2 years ago, where someone was selling a few tiny leeks in a pot. So I bought the pot and took them back, and now, a few seasons on, it's taking off! From that tiny punnet, we now have a whole bed of them! What's more - they're delicious!
Perennial leeks, being a bulb, will grow well near and under your deciduous fruit and nut trees. During the hottest part of summer they are shaded by the trees, while during winter and spring, when the leeks are in their growing phase, the sun can reach them as the trees will have lost their leaves. A great example of the symbiotic relationships between plants - bulbs are better for your trees too as they provide a barrier against grasses which more aggressively compete for nutrients with trees.
If you're interested in growing something a little different, I now have enough stock of these little champions to offer a few for sale. Contact me if you'd like to start your own little colony of these lovely plants.
Oh - and the soup? If you're interested, here's my recipe for the soup pictured above. The quantities are only rough, and will probably do one person for about 3 lunches:
About 1 litre of stock (we had pork roast the other day, so had boiled up the bone from that)
2 perennial leeks (or 1 onion, or 1 shop bought leek), chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2-3 sticks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
A smallish section of pumpkin, chopped
Put everything into the stock, add some chili (if you like) and salt to taste. Simmer for about 20 minutes and serve with crusty bread and butter. Some chopped fresh herbs (parsley, coriander or basil) can be added for extra zing when you serve. Enjoy!