In this brief, we will answer the question, “Can you eat leek leaves?”. We will also elaborate on the possible ways of eating leek leaves, and the reasons to avoid eating leek leaves.
Can you eat leek leaves?
Yes, you can eat the leek leaves. Traditionally, we separate the green toppings of leek leaves which are not edible but leaves which are indicated by thick green color and are perfectly consumable.
What are the leek leaves?
Leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum) is a monocotyledonous plant of the Alliaceae family and compared to other Allium crops, leek is very tolerant to cold weather, although the optimum temperature for vegetative growth is around 20°C (1).
Leeks have a lighter taste, which is quite similar to that of onions. Leeks are firm and crunchy in texture. The edible part of the leek is majorly the white area of the leaves which exist in the base of the stem and above the roots. The white stem is called bulb and the green aerial part is referred to as leaf (2).
The dark green coloured leaves are the least edible part of a leek. The leaves are considered by-products of leek. However, studies show that they are superior to bulbs on their antioxidant capacity (1,2).
The dark green color is optional, but most people discard it due to its rough and tough texture, but it becomes edible when we sauté it. This is mostly used to add flavor and taste to our recipes. It can be mixed with other herbs in our dishes.
The uses of leek leaves
Leek is used differently in different countries. In Japan, on the other hand, thick leek shafts are preferred. In England, leek leaves are cut away and only pseudo stalks are meant for trade. In many other countries including Poland, whole leek plants with leaves are a marketable product where the leek leaves are used as an addition to soups or as a component of vegetable salads (3).
Most people use the light green and white parts of leeks. But the leaves of leeks have also been found delicious in taste and flavor due to which it can be used in different recipes such as:
Can be used as crumbles
Long thin strips of leek leaves, which are termed as Julienne, are fried deeply in tempura such as batter, then these strips are crumbled and can be used as a topping for various recipes like salads, soups and can also be as bacon bits.
Can be frozen for soup
It can be frozen with other soup stock items to prevent time while preparing soup.
The leek leaves or leek blades can be used to enroll the herbs and then tie these herb rolls into a wrapping packet to form a bouquet garni.
Can be stir-fried
These can be made as a stir-fry dish while the rough and tough textures leaves can bear the high heat method of frying but it is always recommended to cook in a brief manner or through constantly stirring them.
Can be used by steam cooking
They can be added to the bottom corner of the bamboo steamer to glamorize the flavor and taste of chicken and lean fish.
Can be used to synthesize tart
Leek tart can be prepared by using leek leaves.
A rack of leek leaves can be used to add flavor
Leek leaves can be placed as a “rack” or in simple words it can be said as a cluster of leek leaves beneath the roasted chicken or any other meat. This “rack” will add taste and a flavor to the drippings and it also uplifts the meat to a lighter level from the pan. This rack of leaves should be discarded just before preparing the gravy from drippings.
The health benefits of leek leaves
Almost all the varieties of leeks are healthy and full of nutritional content and serve as a good host of health benefits. Some of the benefits which we can extract from leek leaves are as follows:
Contain a variety of nutritional content
Leeks are full of nutritional values and are also termed nutrient-dense which means they are having a lower number of calories with a high mineral and vitamin content. 100 grams of cooked leeks which are approximately 3.5 ounces gives only 31 calories.
But, at the same time in the same content, they are highly enriched with provitamin A and different carotenoids such as carotene. These carotenoids are transformed into vitamin A in the body which play a significant role in enhancing the vision ability, immune response, cellular communication which leads towards a good metabolic rate, and also in reproduction. Leek also contains significant levels of lutein, vitamin C and vitamin E (1).
Leeks are also a high source of Vitamin K1 that is essential for cardiac activities and also in blood clotting.
Its organosulfur compounds, responsible for the organoleptic parameters, are implicated as contributing in part to its health-promoting properties. Several kaempferol glycosides have been reported in leeks. Studies show that the green leaves of 30 investigated leek cultivars possess stronger antioxidant properties than the white shaft (1).
Can also be helpful in weight loss
Like many other vegetables, it can also lead to weight loss. A lesser number of calories per high quantity of leeks can aid in weight loss. Leeks are a good source of fiber and water that keep us fulfilled for a longer time and prevent the feeling of hunger that will indirectly allow us to eat less.
The ingestion of allyl sulfides, by consuming leek and other Allium species, is able to stabilize human weight after a diet and avoid yo-yo dieting but also helps prevent metabolic syndrome (3).
Leeks can also help us to protect against cancer
Leek leaves have an array of compounds that work against cancer. Leek leaves are also enriched with allicin that is a sulfur component that is similar to anticancer features.
The beneficial effects against several diseases, including cancer are due to the protective effect related to the presence of organosulfur compounds and mainly allyl derivatives, which inhibit carcinogenesis in the forestomach, esophagus, colon, mammary gland and lung of experimental animals. Organosulfur compounds modulate the activity of several metabolizing enzymes that activate (cytochrome P450s) or detoxify Leek and its bioactive compounds (glutathione S-transferases) carcinogens and inhibit the formation of DNA adducts in several target tissues (3).
In addition, studies reported the antimicrobial effect of leek leaves, which are due mainly to their content in diallyl thiosulfinate, methyl sulphonate, allyl methyl sulphonate and saponins (2).
In this brief, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat leek leaves?”. We have also elaborated on the possible ways of eating leek leaves, and the reasons to avoid eating leek leaves.
- Bernaert, Nathalie, et al. Antioxidant capacity, total phenolic and ascorbate content as a function of the genetic diversity of leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum). Food chem, 2012, 134, 669-677.
- Caputo L, Amato G, Fratianni F, Coppola R, Candido V, De Feo V, Nazzaro F. Chemical Characterization and Antibiofilm Activities of Bulbs and Leaves of Two Aglione (Allium ampeloprasum var. holmense Asch. et Graebn.) Landr Grown Southern It. Molecules, 2020; 25, 5486.
- Bernaert, Nathalie. Bioactive compounds in leek (Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum): analysis as a function of the genetic diversity, harvest time and processing techniques. Diss. Ghent University, 2013.