When to Harvest
The best time to harvest leeks is when the temperature is below 75°F (24°C). The month you harvest leeks depends on the climate in your area. Leeks take up to 120 days to reach maturity. In cool, northern climates, your leeks should be ready to pick in mid-summer.
If you live in a warmer, southern climate, harvest your leeks in early winter. Both the leaves and stems are edible, but keep in mind that picking leaves too early will stunt the stalk’s growth. Mature leeks range from 6 to 10 inches long with a 2-inch diameter and resemble a large green onion, but harvest them when the stalk diameter is one inch for the best flavor.
What Is the Best Temperature for Storing Leeks?
You can store leeks for several weeks, if you keep them at a temperature of 32°F (0°C). They also remain the freshest at a relative humidity of 90% to 100% to prevent wilting. If you store leeks at warmer temperatures, they will decay and yellow rapidly.
What Is the Best Way to Keep Leeks Fresh?
The best way to keep your leeks fresh after harvesting is to brush off as much soil and grit as you can, then wrap the leeks in a damp paper towel. Seal the wrapped leeks in a plastic bag to prevent other foods from absorbing the onion smell . Store them in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Before eating, rinse them with plenty of cold, running water and trim off the roots.
Like an onion, you can eat them raw or cooked. Once you cook the leeks, you can keep them refrigerated for two days before they become bitter and mushy.
How to Preserve Leeks
Preserving leeks can be a challenge, since most common storage methods don’t work well for leeks:
- Freezing leeks is not an option because they develop a bitter flavor, and become too soft and mushy for use in recipes.
- Canning is another method that doesn’t work for storing leeks. Like onions, leeks turn soupy and mushy when canned.
The best method for preserving leeks is to dry them. If you want to do this, wash them first, then cut the leeks into one-quarter inch slices. Dry them in a dehydrator or oven at 145° until they’re crispy. This is a lot quicker than the time it takes to cure and dry onions.