Today is Saint David’s Day, and the national day of Wales! It’s a day celebrated throughout that country with parades and parties from the valleys to the cities. St David is remembered as a staunch missionary for the church in Wales, undergoing pilgrimages to the Vatican and Jerusalem in his lifetime. He founded dozens of strict ascetic monasteries were the monks lived on a diet of only fruit, bread, water, milk and vegetables and had to do all the hard labour by hand – even using animals in the fields to plough was forbidden!
According to legend he was also said to have performed multiple miracles. He restored the sight of his tutor, Saint Paulinus, raised up the ground at Brefi so he could deliver a sermon and survived a poisoning attempt by monks fed up with his strict tenets. Saint David is also notable for being probably the only British patron saint who is actually a native of their home isle, and only one of two who actually ever visited the land that claimed them as their saint (the other being St Patrick).
All Things Welsh – Leeks
On this day when we are inclined to think more of all things Welsh, it’s worth a moment to consider the Leek. Probably the second best known plant associated with the country (beaten out by the Daffodil) the leek is a flavoursome vegetable that deserves consideration in any home gardeners vegetable patch. Here’s a quick guide to growing them!
Sowing Time – February to June
Hardy and native to the British Isles, the Leek is well regarded for its ability to grow right into the winter months. Seeding new plants throughout the year can result in nearly year round availability of good, home grown leeks.
It’s best to start off by growing leeks under glass. Despite their hardy nature the plants don’t do so well with searching for moisture due to their shallow roots. Once the plants are approximate the thickness of a pencil though they can be transplanted outside. This should happen into soil that has been properly prepared with rotted organic matter or other fertilizer. Leeks don’t do nearly so well on compacted soil so take steps to make sure they have plenty of things to use.
Leeks should be planted in holes at least six inches deep and at least 30 cm away from other leeks. Rows again should be at least 30 cm apart as this will both help to prevent disease and assist in airflow.
The Care and Tending of Leeks.
Leeks are fairly low maintenance to grow and don’t need any trimming. They do, however need to be kept moist. Should dry weather occur, it is important to give them a thorough soaking to keep them healthy. Be warned of the presence of any weeds however – with their shallow roots Leeks are especially susceptible to them.
Another thing to try is to cover up more of the leek with earth as it grows. The part of the Leek that is under the soil becomes “blanched” or the white part which it the tastiest part of the plant. Some Gardeners go so far as to planting their leeks in a trench and filing it in as they grow thus ensuring they get more of the delicious white part.
Leeks can be picked whenever they are full grown. It takes about four months for a Leek to grow to maturity. They are well renowned for how well they keep in the ground during the winter months, being a traditional food source throughout October through to March. Note however that Leeks do not keep very well once removed from the ground and should generally be picked only when it is time to eat them.