by Health Coach Melanie Rathbun FMCA
It’s that time of year when leeks are springing up around us! If you’ve never tried leeks, this may be your time to adopt something new into your diet. Leeks are similar in appearance (and nutrition) to green onions, just much larger so they are easy to spot at your local farmers market or grocery store. They come from the same family as onions and garlic (allium family) with a distinct flavor, and they offer similar health benefits. The health benefits to eating leeks are plenty, one of them being that they are high in prebiotic inulin fiber (up to 16%). Prebiotics are types of dietary fibre that feed the friendly bacteria in your gut and help in the breakdown of fat. This helps the gut bacteria produce nutrients for your colon cells and leads to a healthier digestive system. They are high in flavonoids, which supports your body’s response to oxidative stress. Leeks are also a good source of vitamin K, which provides benefits for heart and bones.
Like onions and garlic, raw leeks have a pretty strong flavor. But when they are thinly sliced, they can be a nice garnish for soups, salads, roasted veggies, meats, fishes or other dishes, just as you would green onion. You can also roast leeks whole, halved or sliced, drizzled with a little olive oil and sea salt. Simple and delicious!
Mostly just the white and light green parts are eaten, though the darker parts have plenty of flavor and can be either cooked longer to tenderize them, or used when making homemade soup stock (*see recipe note). Choose leeks that are about an inch thick, and have a long white to pale green shaft.
Due to the way they are grown, with soil piled up around them, they can be quite dirty on the inside, so pay extra attention to how you clean them prior to consuming. A great trick to clean for chopped use is to first cut the leeks lengthwise. Then make crosswise cuts along the part of the leek that you intend to use. Rinse in a bowl of cold water. If they are especially dirty, rinse them first in a colander, before covering with water. Use your hands to mix the leeks around and dislodge any dirt or sand that may be sticking to them. Rinse with fresh water in a colander and drain.
For this month’s recipe feature, I’ve included for you a nutrient dense Leek & Fennel Soup. The shredded chicken is optional if you’d like some added protein. I love this spring fresh soup! You can even double it, freeze and save more for later when you’re in a pinch at mealtime.
Leek & Fennel Soup (with chicken)
½ cup water
3 leek bulbs (medium, white portion trimmed and chopped)
2 garlic (cloves, minced)
1 T Thyme (fresh)
¼ t sea salt
1 bulb fennel (large, chopped)
*3 cups vegetable broth (tip: if making homemade broth, use the dark green portion of the leeks for additional flavor!)
10 oz chicken breast, cooked shredded (optional)
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