Living With Herbs: The Welsh Leek

The history of the leek (Allium ampeloprasum) as the emblem of Wales goes back to the battle of Heathfield in 633 CE, when the Welsh wore leeks in their caps to distinguish themselves from their Saxon foes. That's one story. Another: Welsh archers wore leeks in their caps at the Battle of Agincourt, fighting with Henry V against the French. Whatever the explanation, the Welsh now wear the leek on March 1, just as the Irish wear shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day. If you don't have a leek handy, wear a daffodil, also an emblem of Wales. And if March has come in like a lion in your neighborhood, it's undoubtedly a good day for a bowl of hot potato leek soup.

Potato Leek Soup
3-4 leeks
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp butter or olive oil
3 cups chicken stock
4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 cup half-and-half (you can substitute milk)
1 tblsp fresh minced thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped parsley and chives for garnish

Slice the root ends from the leeks, and remove the fibrous dark green tops (save for vegetable stock). Slice lengthwise, wash, and chop the leeks. Heat the butter or olive oil in a medium-size stock pot. Add leeks and onion. Cover and cook over low heat until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Add potatoes. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes. Add thyme in the last 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat. Lightly mash the potatoes in the stock, using a masher or spoon. Stir in milk, and add salt and pepper to taste. Reheat before serving. Garnish with chopped parsley and chives.

Read about growing and cooking with leeks, onions, and other alliums:

    If they would eat leeks in March
and mugworts in May
so many young maidens wouldn't
go to the clay.
—Traditional