So, when to harvest spaghetti squash? The best time is early to mid-fall. In the northern…
The key in when to harvest leeks can be decided in a couple of ways. The first is relying on the season and the second is just plain old judgement.
When you combine the two, then you are going to get better results.
When I harvested my first leek crop, I religiously followed the experts who suggested waiting as long as possible into late spring.
It worked out well and each year after, I found instinct taking over. That’s when judgement began to take over.
You see, knowing when to harvest leeks will eventually depend more on judgement than following a strict set of growing and harvesting rules.
The reason why is no two years are alike. Growing conditions differ from year to year and making judgement calls is what will get you good results. In this article, I will provide some tips to harvesting leeks on time.
When To Harvest Leeks
Leek harvesting season starts in late spring and continues into early fall. That’s just a rough guide because you’ll also be guided by the variety of leeks.
I like to see at least an inch to two inches in diameter at the bottom before I harvest leeks. Again, deciding to pick them will depend on what strength of flavor you will want.
The less size the less strength in flavor you’ll get. That’s been my experience anyway. I like to harvest leeks at a little over an inch.
Also, when you harvest leeks, it is best to do so just before the leaves turn yellow and begin to wilt.
This way, the roots are still attached to the plant and the stems remain intact. If you wait too long, the roots could separate from the stem and the leeks won’t grow well.
Harvesting leeks before they form bulbils is important because it helps prevent the formation of bulblets.
Bulblets are small, immature leeks that develop inside the larger leek. They’re usually found near the bottom of the leek where there is less light. These immature leeks are often bitter tasting and don’t look very appetizing.
My preferred way in making a decision to harvest leeks is using judgement. The season will play an important role in making this decision. If it’s cooler than normal, it will be well into spring before you might harvest.
A warm winter will mean an early spring harvest is possible.
How To Harvest Leeks
This is the easy part although you’ll have to be careful. I’ve found over the years that the older the leek plant gets the less stable it is.
Pulling out the leek is easy. Just grab the top of the plant but use a little gentleness and give a couple of tugs.
You’ll find if the leek is ready to be pulled it will give way very easily. A couple of gentle tugs is usually all that is required.
So when you have fully removed the leek from the ground you will need to shake off whatever soil is around the bulb and the roots.
There will be a lot of roots but they aren’t too long. Once you have the leek plant out of the ground now it’s time to tidy it up.
There is an outer layer which covers the bulb section of the plant. Much of the first layer will appear to be coming off. Just remove it all the way down to and over the root system.
When you do this, the bulb will present a lovely white color and the leek will look appealing clean.
You still have the roots so they will need to be removed. Garden snips or a pair of scissors is all that is needed.
Just cut the roots off from the bottom of the bulb until you have removed them all. Don’t be intimidated by this as you won’t harm the plant.
All that is left to do is to remove the green leaves. Again, use your shears and from the point where the leaves separate from the bulb, cut them off.
This is a really easy process once you learn it.
Harvesting leeks will become second nature to you after the first time.
How To Store Leeks
Knowing when to harvest leeks is one thing. Knowing how to store leeks is another.
Again, don’t be intimidated by this process as it’s very easy In fact, I have a quick five point system in storing leeks. Here it is:
– Cut off the green tops of leeks.
– Wash thoroughly under cold running water.
– Remove roots and dark green leaves.
– Slice leeks lengthwise into halves or quarters.
– If you want to store leeks whole, wrap them tightly in paper towels and refrigerate. They’ll keep well for up to three weeks.
Another way to store leeks is to dehydrate them. Today, food dehydration is becoming extremely popular and with many folks looking to create levels of food storage to combat rising food prices, dehydration makes sense.
Am I recommending dehydrating your leeks? Well yes but only if you know what you are doing. As this article is simple about when to harvest leeks for best results, I’ll save it for another day. So for now, stick with the tried and prove refrigerator method.
Last Minute Tips
I will admit, harvesting leeks and storing them is not rocket science. But for those of you doing this for the first time, it can seem a little challenging.
Some final tips on when to harvest leeks?
Well, one thing my parents taught me is when harvesting any vegetable, always think about tomorrow. With the leeks, the opportunity is going to present that you will be able to have planting material for you next crop.
When you are pulling the leeks from the ground, you’ll notice smaller shoots come away with them. Save these and replant them.
Also, when cutting the roots from the plants, depending on how many you have, consider cutting or slicing the bulb about a quarter to a half inch above the roots and replant them.
It will look a little like a jellyfish but the leek is a hardy plant that can withstand a lot including cold temperatures and this method is used by many savvy gardeners.
Again, slice about a quarter inch above the root system and replant it. I like to put them in pots or containers.
And if you have a tip or two about harvesting leeks, please share in the comments.