What to do about bolting leeks

I’m a bit gutted this week as several of my leeks have bolted. I absolutely love leeks and the first thing I read when I started researching “leeks bolted” was that they lose their taste and become tough and bitter once they bolt. Not what I wanted to hear! Well, I’m going to cook a couple of my bolted leeks anyway and will report back, because I am still hopeful that they’ll be delicious, and if not I will cook them up in a veg stock anyway.

However, I also learnt a few other interesting things about leeks when they bolt, and I thought I’d share it all as it is definitely food for thought.

Apparently, in many places, leeks are very much grown as a perennial in a single bed/area. The leeks will form the “bud” on top which then flowers (the flowers look like alliums and can range from white to lavender, and from what I have read they are EXTREMELY good at attracting bees and butterflies). Once they have flowered they form seed heads, with hundreds of little black seeds (a lot like chives) that self sow very easily. Within a few weeks you’ll have lots of little seedlings shooting up in and around the original leek. Where gardeners are growing them in this way, they simply thin out the seedlings so that they have space to grow to a good size and let them grow on.

Meanwhile, the original leek will die back for a couple of months. The bulb will split, much like a garlic bulb splitting into cloves, and from this new leeks will shoot up. This is where the perennial bit comes in. The new shoots can be allowed to grow before being harvested as several leeks, or you can pull them up whilst young, separate them, and replant them in rows.

I’m loving this idea, and I think I might just give it a go to see how successful it is.