Picking Leeks, Eating Scapes and Replanting Offsets – Making Biennial Leeks Perennial

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Picking Leeks, Eating Scapes and Replanting Offsets – Making Biennial Leeks Perennial

The leeks I grew last year have started to send up flowering shoots so I need to either eat them quickly or let them flower so I can propagate leeks for next winter and spring. I’m keeping a dozen or so of the best plants in the ground for another few months until the flower buds open. Unlike most people I am not after seed but the grass or pips that grow amongst the seed which are basically mini leek clones that can be ripped off the plant, bunged in the ground and grown on for next year. All my leeks picked this spring were grown using this process. I go into more detail about this here.

After the leek has flowered it approaches the end of its life but what I didn’t know, and what I am experimenting with this year, is that the leek grows baby leek bulbs around its base. Because nearly all vegetable gardeners throw away their leeks when they start to flower very few people notice this. By late summer there should be three or four quite large bulbs that can be grown on for next spring’s harvest.

I intend to do this with my dozen remaining plants, but I had a careful look at the bases of the leeks that I dug up to eat that were just starting to flower. Some of them had really small offsets (or mini leeks) at the base, amongst the roots (see pics). They are obviously immature but I have grown on immature pips (mini leeks on the flower head) as well as immature bulbils from my tree onions, and this has worked fine.

I ripped them off the base or cut them with some of the mother plants roots and put them in pots of compost, hopefully to grow on. I’ll keep you all posted on what happens next.

Of course, this is an experiment and you shouldn’t take what I say as gospel, though the grass/pips technique I have proven works. I am confident of its success because of the experience I have of growing other alliums. I have seen other gardens that have had leeks that have clumped in this manner over the years. Sheepdrove Farm is one.

James Wong in his book James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution(if you buy the book using this link I will get a small amount of commission, if you don’t like that idea go to amazon.co.uk and search for james wong) says that the scapes (the flower bud and a bit of stalk) of Elephant Garlic (which is closely related to the leek) is utterly delicious. So I collected all the scapes from my leeks and fried them. It was very tasty, a bit like a cross between onion and asparagus. Very nice.

 

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