Musselburgh Leek

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Musselburgh Leek

Scottish leeks are easily identified from other varieties by their long leaf (green flag) and short blanch (white). Musselburgh leeks are a short variety of Allium ampeloprasum with thick white stems. They also differ from the “London leek” that have more evenly spaced leaves around the stem. Soils that are fertile, rich and well drained provide ideal growing conditions for leek seeds. Lowland and Lothian soils have these characteristics and are, therefore, important areas. The leeks should ideally be planted outdoors in May and can be harvested from September to March. Musselburgh Leeks are well suited to harsh Scottish weather conditions. This variety is well known for being robust, and is often grown for winter hardiness. Some seed specialists have noted the ability of this leek variety to survive even under periods of extreme snow conditions.   Leeks have been grown within Scotland since the Middle Ages, and the Musselburgh leek was introduced to the market in 1834 from the area of Musselburgh, 9.5 km east of Edinburgh. Their higher proportion of green flag gives broths a good color, and the leeks are said to have a sweeter flavor than other varieties. They are the essential vegetable within cock-a-leekie soup, a traditional Scottish national dish that was developed in the Lowlands. Musselburgh leeks were considered more valuable than those matured in other areas of Scotland, and so the dish became quite popular within nearby Edinburgh’s taverns.   Production of Musselburgh leeks within Scotland is currently at low levels, but there are signs of slight growth as a local resurgence of the vegetable takes place. Currently, Musselburgh leeks are mainly available in seed or plant form. The availability of fresh leeks on the market ready for consumers is very limited (with producers being difficult to find). Therefore, it would seem that currently they are mainly produced for home consumption. This results in many consumers being unaware of Musselburgh leeks, which in turn creates a very low demand for the vegetable even considering their important history in Scottish and overall UK food culture. Their special growing and taste characteristics are often overshadowed by other more common leek varieties.Photo: RHS Onlne Plant Shop 

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves