How To Clean Leeks For Dirt-Free Dishes

Leeks come from the Alliceae family of plants, all of which contain many layers. Otherwise known as the onion family, this group includes plants like garlic, scallions, and of course, onions, and plants in this group are known for their unique, onion-like taste, which makes them great for cooking. Leeks set themselves apart by growing long, flat leaves, unlike the bulbs or cloves that garlic and onions have. Furthermore, unlike garlic and onions, which can simply be peeled, leeks require a thorough washing to clear out dirt that lies between their many layers.

Washing a leek on the outside as you would an apple simply won't work. This method doesn't access the inside of the leek, where unseen dirt gets sealed in between the layers as the plant grows. As such, you must wash a leek from the inside out. The best way to do so is to remove the dark, leafy ends and the roots, then slice the leek's stalk lengthwise, revealing all its layers — and any hidden dirt. This enables you to peel apart each layer and wash the leek thoroughly. You can either rinse each layer individually under the faucet or dunk the leeks in a bowl of water and give them a good scrub with your hands to manually remove any grime. Once this process is complete, the clean leek leaves are ready to be cut and added to any dish.

Leeks are notoriously dirty plants

No one wants to find dirt floating in their leek soup or taste something gritty in their otherwise smooth scalloped potatoes. For a dirt-free dish, properly cleaning each leek layer is important. However, leeks aren't just notoriously dirty due to their many dirt-trapping layers; what you might not know about leeks is that farmers grow them using a technique called blanching, wherein they push dirt up the plant's stalk to cover it from the sun and prevent photosynthesis. The outcome of blanching is a plant with a milder taste and a more tender texture, which people prefer to eat. The other effects include a pale-colored stalk and, unfortunately, extra bits of dirt.

Nonetheless, leeks are a great choice for cooking if you're working within the onion family — they're mild, sweet, and overall very pleasant. They can easily impart a delicate taste to a dish and have as much aromatic flavor as any onion. Washing leeks properly may take extra time, but the process is worth the effort if it means you get to enjoy their flavor without a side of dirt.