Leeks: useful properties and contraindications
Leeks are a common variety of edible two-year herbaceous plant, widely used in many world cuisines. Unlike green leeks, which are identical in appearance, leeks do not have an onion. It features a thick trunk and relatively large leaves of a rich green color.
- What a leek looks like
- How leeks differ from ordinary onions
- What is different from butternut squash
- Composition and calories
- How Leeks are Useful
- General benefits
- For Women
- For Men
- For breastfeeding
- For children
- For weight loss
- Leeks in medicine
- Diabetes mellitus
- For pancreatitis
- For gastritis
- For gout
- Leek-based folk medicine recipes
- Cosmetic Usage
- Hazards and Contraindications
- How to choose and store leeks
- Can I freeze?
- How to Eat Leeks Properly
- Can I eat the green part?
- What can be cooked from leeks: Recipes
- Cream soup with salmon
- Leek Salad with Mayonnaise
- Leek salad with olives
- How to bake leeks
- What Leeks Can Be Replaced With
- Interesting facts about leeks
Depending on the variety, leeks vary in length: from very small to 30-40 cm. Leeks have a unique taste - they simultaneously combine a spicy spiciness and a pronounced sweetness. Therefore, in dishes it is often used as one of the main ingredients. But its use is not limited to cooking, because of its rich vitamin composition it is also found in the recipes of folk medicine. How leeks differ from other varieties of onions, what are their benefits for the body, and in what case it is better to refuse to use them - read further in the article.
What leeks look like
Leeks are a derivative of the grape onion, which can still be found in Italy, Greece and some eastern countries. It belongs to the herbaceous biennials of the subfamily Onions of the Amaryllis family. Its second name is the pearl leek.
The bulb of the leek is either completely absent or weakly expressed. Out of its center comes a large white stem, also called stalk. From its top grow thin green leaves lanceolate type.
Leeks begin to flower in mid-summer. It has a fairly large umbrella-like inflorescence resembling a ball. In the first year of life, the plant develops a root system, and in the second year, the stem and leaves.
How leeks differ from ordinary onions
The leek differs from the classic onion by its different structure. It has no bulb and consists of an elongated trunk and feathery leaves. This is also how it differs from ordinary green onions. As for its taste, the differences are not so obvious. Mature leeks have a milder, sweeter taste. It is not characterized by the bitterness of the onion. It is because of this unique property of leeks is present in many French dishes. There, it is even added to the batter for pancakes.
Leeks are 3 times more productive than onions, they are relatively undemanding to storage conditions, do not lose their properties within 6 months after harvesting.
How leeks differ from butternut squash
Onions are very similar to green onions, but their arrows are larger in size and coarser in taste. It does not have a false white stem (another name is "stalk"), unlike leeks.
Composition and calories
There are only 33 kcal in 100 g of leeks. Protein accounts for up to 2.0 g, carbohydrates - up to 8.2 g, fat - 0 g. Almost 90% of its composition is water, but also present dietary fiber, starch, sugar and organic acids. As for minerals, it contains manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and iron. Leeks have B vitamins (B1, B2), vitamin E, C, carotene.
What are leeks useful for?
In addition to the fact that this type of onion has excellent taste qualities, it is also of great health benefits:
- Due to the presence of sulfur in its composition, leeks suspend inflammatory reactions in the body. This substance is also considered a first-class prophylactic against arthritis, it prevents cartilage deformation.
- Leeks contain quercetin, one of the recognized antioxidants that neutralizes the negative effects of free radicals, it protects against cancer, neutralizes allergens and their external manifestations on the skin, suppresses asthma attacks.
- Leek is effective for digestive disorders, constipation, as an antibacterial, expectorant and antifungal agent.
- Because of its high concentration of potassium, it has a good diuretic effect.
- The product also promotes tissue regeneration, lowers blood cholesterol levels, and acts as an effective remedy against diarrhea.
- The onion contains a unique mustard oil - allicin, which has disinfecting properties, it works especially well for infections of the genitourinary system.
- The product helps improve eyesight and overall eye health.
- Leeks are indicated for people suffering from anemia because it raises iron levels.
Women should definitely pay attention to leeks if they want to stay young and beautiful for a long time. The high concentration of ascorbic acid helps to strengthen the immune system, normalizes the emotional background and relieves nervous tension. It prevents the early appearance of wrinkles, improves hair.
Quercetin, present in the leek, is considered one of the best antioxidants. Its ability to inhibit the growth of cancerous tumors has been proven. Kempferol, another antioxidant, is especially useful for women as it is an effective preventative against ovarian cancer.
A few centuries ago, leeks were one of the most common natural aphrodisiacs. Therefore, men suffering from low libido should add it to their diet. It is desirable to consume it daily, but the minimum frequency is several times a week.
The representatives of the stronger half of mankind leeks are also recommended as a natural source of vitamins. It fills with energy, which can be fundamentally important for athletes with increased power exertion.
If there is no individual intolerance to the product, leeks can be eaten by women in the position, but in a limited amount (not more than 150 grams per day) and not daily. Ideally, 2-3 times a week. Because of the large amount of vitamin C, it will protect the body of the future mother from colds and viral infections. Folic acid present in leeks (32 mg per 100 grams) protects the fetus from malformations and is responsible for the formation of a healthy nervous system. Dietary fiber ensures daily stools.
Leeks, like regular onions, can be returned to the diet when breastfeeding not earlier than 3 months from the time of delivery. This is due to the fact that its specific taste can affect the taste of milk, and the baby will refuse to breastfeed.
Leeks should also be on children's menus. Children under one year of age can be given it in boiled form, grinded to a state of puree. Start complementary foods with 1/3 teaspoon, gradually increasing to 1 teaspoon per serving. The best time for its first introduction - 8 months. It goes well with other vegetables suitable for complementary foods. Leeks are good for children precisely as an excellent source of vitamin C and iron. It helps strengthen the immune system and prevents iron deficiency anemia. Magnesium and folic acid are responsible for the normal functioning of the nervous system.
When losing weight
The leek contains no fat at all, so it can be eaten while dieting without fear of the opposite effect. Because of the lack of fat, it does not satisfy hunger well, but in combination with other vegetables in salads contributes to gradual satiety. Leeks stabilize metabolic processes in the body, help naturally remove toxins and poisons.
Leeks in medicine
Leeks are also highly valued in medical practice. Doctors recommend it for digestive disorders, rheumatism and diseases of the nasopharynx. It promotes blood purification, with regular use normalizes metabolic processes, so it can be useful for people with chronic diseases of any localization.
This disease is characterized by high blood sugar levels and insufficient amount of insulin for its utilization. One of the amazing properties of leeks is that they can reduce glucose levels (due to the allicin in them). Therefore, people suffering from diabetes should add this kind of onion to their diet. To enhance the effect, leeks should be consumed with other plants that differ in their ability to lower glucose levels - plantain, dandelion.
Important: The glycemic index of leeks is 30 units.
Leeks contain essential oils that provide their unique aroma and taste. Therefore, when it is consumed, there is a sharp release of gastric juice, which can have a bad effect on the pancreas, especially if it is inflamed. In this condition, leeks should be completely discarded. When the exacerbation phase is overcome, it can gradually return to the diet, but only in heat-treated form (boiled, baked or stewed). In fresh form, it is better not to use it, because this can provoke a recurrence of an attack.
In the acute phase of gastritis, leeks should be abandoned. As in the case of pancreatitis, it will irritate the sensitive mucosa of the stomach and only increase its inflammation due to the increased production of gastric juice. The main cause is essential oils. When in remission, its use is acceptable, but again only in stewed or boiled form.
Leeks are among the few foods that can be eaten with gout without any serious restrictions. It has practically no purines, which could aggravate the disease. In the absence of any chronic abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract, it can be eaten raw, baked or boiled. In the case of young leeks, it is better to give preference to a simple fresh salad with vegetables.
Traditional medicine recipes based on leeks
Leeks are a widespread ingredient present in the composition of many recipes of folk healers.
- In its pure form, it is used to relieve redness and pain from sunburn. To do this, you need to grind it into a pulp, squeeze the juice, put it on the affected area of the body and hold for about 50 minutes, then rinse with water. Grated leeks can also be applied to a callus, but you need to keep it for at least an hour and a half.
- When inflammation of the lungs, the natural aroma of onions will help speed up the recovery. To do this, you need to prepare it properly: finely chop it and put it in some container for convenient inhalation. For each subsequent treatment, it is advisable to prepare a new fresh batch of onions.
- There is a proven recipe for the treatment of angina based on leeks. All you need to do is to grind it on a grater and squeeze it well. The resulting juice should be drunk 1 tsp. 3-4 times a day and gargle your throat with it. Leek juice perfectly copes with a runny nose - you need to drop 2 drops into each nostril 2-3 times a day, and within 3 days the cold will recede. When otitis, cotton turundas should be soaked in leek juice and put in each nostril in turn.
- Men who face a problem with potency should eat fresh leek mush. The optimal dosage and duration of the course is 2 tbsp. 3 times a day regardless of meals for 3 months. If there is no way to maintain such a diet, you can simply add leeks to your traditional daily vegetables. It can be lightly poached in a pan as an accompaniment to meat.
- A small amount of grated leek (30 to 50 g) should be mixed with 1 tbsp. flour and the resulting mixture applied to the site of the boil or bruise. Such a compress has a warming and at the same time bactericidal effect.
- To boost immunity, 150 grams of fresh leeks should be chopped and combined with 30 grams of cold-pressed olive oil. Take 1 tbsp. 3 times a day. The same amount of onion can be combined with 40 g of honey and take 15 g (one tablespoon) with each meal. This will also help to strengthen the body's natural defenses and make up for the lack of vitamins and minerals in the fall and winter.
Cosmetologists have appreciated leeks and as a means for skin care. Therefore, on its basis make cleansing masks for the face, the effect of which is identical to peeling.
To prepare the mask leek stalk with a small amount of green part should be ground in a blender or mincer until you get a pulp. After squeezing it well to remove the juice. To the onions add 1 tbsp. lemon juice, 5 drops of cosmetic almond oil, mix and apply a thin layer to the face. The mask should be held for 20-25 minutes, then gently remove with a wet cotton pad or wash with warm water.
Mask based on leek pulp can also be rubbed into the roots of the hair to strengthen them. In this composition you can add 1-2 tbsp. of burdock oil. This composition will stimulate growth and help get rid of dandruff. For a greater effect, you can add 1 tsp of dry mustard, diluted in warm water.
Those who face the problem of brittle nails, you can recommend applying the leek pulp directly on the nail. After each finger should be wrapped in clingfilm and leave it for 15 minutes. With the systematic use of such a mask, you can solve the problem even without the use of additional pharmacy products.
Harms and contraindications
The relative disadvantage of this type of onion can be considered its ability to increase sweating due to the essential oils included in the composition. This can make everyday life difficult.
The plant should not be eaten by people who suffer from low blood sugar levels, as it can lower it even more, as well as in the case of an allergy to nickel.
How to choose and store leeks
Leeks can be sold in a variety of forms:
- by the piece;
- in bunches;
- in plastic containers.
If the shape of the package, or lack thereof, allows you to smell the onion, this should be done. The aroma says a lot about the freshness of the product. Leeks should be bought with the following rules in mind:
- Good leeks have white stems and green leaves that show no signs of disease or wilting. Closer to the stem, they may have a lighter shade, even white. This is normal, but they should not have any spots, small dots, or sharp variations in color.
- The stem should be white - the lighter it is, the tastier it is. At the same time, its length should not be more than 6 cm. This is a certain criterion by which the quality of this variety of onion is determined.
- The optimal diameter of the stem is 1.5 cm. If it is larger, it indicates that the onion is old.
- The product should not have an unnatural shine.
- If you can see traces of cutting on the leaves, it means it has already begun to dry out, and the store has tried to give it a marketable appearance.
- The stem should have a cylinder shape, it cannot have any head.
- Any yellow discoloration on the stem or leaves indicates that the onion is starting to rot.
If leeks are sealed in a package, inspect it for integrity. The leeks must meet the above criteria. They should not be too soft or too hard.
Pay attention! Leeks are on sale almost all year round, but it is better to buy them from late fall to March, which is the time of their natural ripening.
Leeks can be stored just like green onions. It is best left in the refrigerator in the appropriate compartment for storing vegetables. Outwardly, the leaves seem strong, but it is easy to deform them, and once damaged, they begin to dry out and spoil quickly.
Leeks and leeks storage recommendations:
- The bottom of the stalk should be cut off about 2 cm, and the leaves should be reviewed for dried out or yellow.
- If there are too many onions, it's wise to put the leeks away in the cellar, which will be cool in any weather outside.
- There is no need to wash the onions before storing them in the refrigerator - water will shorten their shelf life.
- Any form of preserving is suitable - pickling, pickling or canning.
- Leeks can be tightly wrapped in Kraft paper to prolong their original state.
- It is not desirable to store it in a bag, but if for some reason it is not possible otherwise, you need to make small cuts to drain condensation.
- If the onions acquire an unpleasant odor during storage, they should not be eaten, because this will reflect badly on the taste.
- Leeks should not be frozen. It can either be stored fresh or fully frozen.
At room temperature, leeks will stay fresh for 14 days, but they should not be exposed to direct sunlight. High humidity also has a negative effect on its taste.
Can they be frozen?
This storage principle is acceptable. But before freezing it should be well washed, because most of the dirt and sand gets clogged up exactly between the leaves. Be sure to cut off 2 cm of the stalks and review the leaves (remove the dried ones). Next, it should be very well dried. For freezing, it is advisable to cut it into small circles up to 2-3 mm in diameter. If the stem is too big, it can be cut in half and cut into halves.
Next, it should be frozen a little. This is done so that in the future onions can easily pour out of the container in which it will be stored, even if it is an ordinary bag. To do this, you need to pour it on a flat dish (a cutting board will do) and cover it with food film. It does not allow the flavor to spread throughout the freezer. In such a condition it should be left in the freezer for several hours, provided that the temperature in it is not less than -15 degrees. When the leeks are slightly frozen, they should be transferred to a container for freezing. This can be a bag or a food container.
How to eat leeks properly
Many people, once tried leeks, refused to eat them, arguing that its green part is too hard and does not soften even after cooking. But the main mistake of such a statement is that only the stem and at most the light green part of the leaves are eaten. They have a unique taste, not unlike ordinary onions.
Can you eat the green part?
The green part is really very tough and should not be eaten. It's almost unrealistic to make it softer, but it's not worth throwing it away either. Many experienced cooks make on its basis the so-called bouquet garni - a bundle of dried herbs (basil, parsley, rosemary, tarragon and other components), tied with a thread. It is used in the preparation of various soups. The bouquet is dropped into the pot after the water boils and taken out a few minutes before cooking. It adds amazing flavor to the dish, making it richer and brighter.
Another great way to use the green part is as a substrate in steamed dishes.
What you can make from leeks: recipes
The most famous recipes with leeks are salads, soups and numerous open pies. It can act as a great side dish if you just stew it with the addition of a little lemon juice. It combines with tomatoes, so it is often used on bruschetta. Leeks boil over when cooked for a long time, which can be useful if you need to thicken stewed vegetables.
Creamy soup with salmon
This is one of the best first-course recipes with leeks. But technically, it can be used in any traditional soup that calls for leeks.
To prepare the creamy soup with salmon you need the following components:
- 1,5 kg of fresh salmon;
- 200 g of smoked pink salmon;
- 1 carrot;
- 3-4 potatoes;
- 1 small celery root;
- 1 large stalk of leeks;
- 1 cauldron of fennel;
- 1 small bundle of dill;
- 400 ml of cream with at least 20% fat;
- 1 tbsp flour;
- salt and white pepper - to taste.
The sequence of actions should be as follows:
- Gut the fish, cut off the tail, fins and head (from it necessarily take out the gills), put them in a saucepan and pour 2 liters of clean water. We put on medium heat, bring to a boil. Then remove the foam and continue to cook for half an hour.
- Cut the rest of the carcass into fillets, remove the bones and divide into small portions. Do the same with the salmon.
- Wash and peel vegetables. Cut carrots and celery in small sticks, potatoes in medium sized cubes. Shred the leeks in rings, and fennel first cut in half, then each half into 3-4 parts.
- First add carrots and celery to the barely boiling broth, after 7-10 minutes - potatoes and fennel. The last thing to be added to the pot is the leek.
- When all vegetables in the broth are almost ready, add the fish. We boil it for 5 minutes.
- In a separate container, mix flour and cream, chop dill coarsely enough and add it to the creamy preparation. It should be salted, if desired, you can add a little white pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then remove from the heat, cover with a lid and let stand for 5-7 minutes.
- Pour the broth on the plates and add 50 ml of creamy dressing in each one.
Salad with leeks and mayonnaise
This salad will appeal to those who prefer to use mayonnaise as a dressing. To prepare it you need to take:
- 5 medium sized leek stalks;
- 2 eggs;
- 200 grams of pickles;
- 100 g of mayonnaise;
- salt, pepper - to taste.
- The first thing we boil the eggs in boiling water, immediately put them in cold water, peel them and cut into medium slices.
- Leeks are well washed, remove the green part, and boil the white legs in salted water. After it cools, cut it into slices.
- Cucumbers also cut into small cubes of the same size as the other components of the dish. Mix all the ingredients of the salad and dress with mayonnaise. If desired, decorate with fresh greens.
Leek salad with olives
Young leeks are perfect for salads with any dominant ingredients. This simple salad is great as a vitamin bomb just in the cold season. You will need:
- 450 g celery stalks;
- 450g leek stalks;
- 2 large potatoes;
- 100 ml of olive oil;
- 1 head of ordinary onions;
- 250 g olives (pitted);
- Juice of 1 lemon;
- Salt and pepper to taste.
Sequence of steps:
- Celery washed and cut into large pieces (up to 2 cm), leeks shinny rings.
- The potatoes are cut into medium cubes, the onion is peeled and finely shredded.
- In a deep frying pan heat olive oil, add onions and fry until they soften (about 7 minutes). Add potatoes and celery to the onions and poach them for a while.
- To the vegetables we pour 1 cup of boiling water, turn down the heat a little, put the lid on and stew for about 15-20 minutes.
- Take off the lid, stir and bring the ingredients to full blast for another 5-8 minutes.
- Add olives to the vegetables, stir, salt and pepper, pour into a salad bowl, pour the lemon juice and the remaining olive oil.
How to roast leeks
It is best baked as part of some unsweetened pastry. This will allow all its notes to unfold and harmonize with the flavors of the other ingredients.
Shepherd's pie with leeks and turkey
In the original recipe, all the ingredients in the pie were simply leftovers from some holiday. Today, shepherd's pie has become a complete dish that deserves a place on the holiday table. To make it, you will need:
- chicken broth - 2 cups;
- leeks - 2 large stalks;
- carrots - 2-3 pcs;
- olive oil - 3 tbsp;
- garlic - 3 cloves;
- wine - 70 ml;
- green peas - 200 grams;
- flour - 3 tsp;
- sage - 2 tsp;
- turkey or chicken - 0.5 kg;
- salt, pepper - to taste.
For mashed potatoes:
- potatoes - 1 kg;
- one egg - 1 pc;
- butter - 1 tbsp.
- olive oil - 1 tsp;
- salt, pepper - to taste.
How to cook:
- In olive oil, fry chopped carrots and leeks for 7 minutes, until they are soft.
- Pour in the wine and stir it with the vegetables until the alcohol has evaporated. Add the sage and flour and continue to fry until the flour turns brown (a few minutes).
- Pour in the broth, bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low and leave until the broth is thicker. This is about 5-7 minutes. The readiness can be determined by the condition of carrots - they should be soft.
- In a separate pan, we fry the turkey filet, cut in small pieces, until it is ready. Then we move it to the vegetables, add the peas and be sure to salt and pepper it.
- To prepare mashed potatoes we previously wash, peel and cook them in salted water until tender. Bring it to the state of mashed potatoes, adding butter and olive oil, as well as an egg.
- In the baking dish as the first layer put the vegetables and turkey, and on top - mashed potatoes, distributing evenly over the entire surface. Put in a preheated 180 degrees oven for 35 minutes.
What you can replace leeks with
Traditionally, leeks are replaced only by standard chives. But after cutting it, it should be steeped with boiling water - this will remove the bitterness. In recipes in which leeks are used as a pie filling, cabbage can be used instead. In salads, it is replaced by green onion shoots and garlic. But you can also take ruta, which is a unique spice that is a symbiosis of garlic and onion in taste and flavor.
Interesting facts about leeks
- Leeks were one of the key components in the diet of the builders of the Egyptian pyramids. On their inner walls there are relevant records confirming this. It was leeks that provided slaves with enough energy for grueling physical labor.
- Leeks are the only kind of onion that accumulates vitamin C until February, while the others have already destroyed it by this time.
- Leeks should be sprinkled liberally with salt to maximize their juice production.
- A few centuries ago, leeks were used as an antibacterial agent by hanging over beds. The phytoncides it emitted cleared the upper respiratory tract.
- Rub the sting of a mosquito or gadfly against the green leek leaves for an instant relief. This method is also effective for bee stings, but first you need to pull the stinger out of the affected place.
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