Investigating the Origins of Leeks

Vegetables and herbs have a long history of use by man. Leeks for instance, are said to have been utilized by humans for over 3000 years.

This herb from the onion family that is widely popular in Europe is believed to have come from Asia Minor and The Mediterranean. But evidence shows that leeks are already in existence as far back as ancient Egypt-it has even been depicted in the tombs during that time.

This herb has also been mentioned in the Bible (Numbers 11:5) which indicates that the leek is truly a very old herb.

Although considered as a “poor man’s asparagus” today, it has not always been so. This herb was esteemed in ancient Rome-a vegetable that has been treated with respect because they believe it as superior among other herbs and vegetables.

Even Emperor Nero was reported to be a fan of leeks because people believed eating it would improve one’s singing voice. He ate so many leeks he was tagged as “The Leek-Eater” (Porophagus).

The sweet yet strong voice of the partridge was even accounted by the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, to the bird’s primary diet-which composes mainly of leeks.

Thanks to the Romans who introduced leeks to the United Kingdom, specifically in Wales, it is now a very popular herb there. It has become so popular and loved that they made leek their national emblem.

Leeks also played a significant role during the battle in 1620 between the Welsh and the Saxons. What the Welsh did was to put this herb on their caps so that their soldiers would be able to determine who their allies are from their enemies. It was a battle the Welsh have won.

Today, leeks are treated quite differently. It has lost its past glory especially now that onions-leek’s cousin-have superseded them in the kitchen. But leeks are still a significant herb in many European countries where it is used in so many delicious leek recipes such as Cawl Cennin (Welsh leek broth), Cock-a-Leekie, Tattie and Leek, Scotch broth and Cullen Skink.

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