The Humble Leek: The Link Between Nutrition and Flavor


Soon after I got the idea to make vegetable powders, the first one I made was tree collard powder.  Luckily, the next powders I made were leek powder and leek salt, which I made by adding Celtic sea salt to the leek powder and grinding them together.  I say “luckily” because while the tree collard powder added a nice “grassy” greens taste to food and was very nutritious, it was nowhere near the culinary treat of leek powder.  Freshly made leek powder was truly one of the most flavorful additions to my meals that I could remember.
 
I must admit I got a little carried away and started adding leek powder or leek salt to just about everything I ate – whether my morning eggs, a meat marinade, all my soups and even pancakes (that wasn’t that good, actually).  I gave the leek powder to friends and co-workers, and most said they became “addicted” to it. In some ways, the humble leek launched our companyand steered us toward an emphasis on flavor above all else, for no one wants to eat food that doesn’t taste great.
 
Flavor, though, is not simply a hedonistic pursuit of enjoyment.   Flavor is the key to human nutrition, as we are organized to seek flavor as the key to obtaining robust nutrition.  In this regard, the leek does not disappoint.   Leeks are a member of the allium family, which contains such well-known members as garlic and onions.  They are all descendants of the wild ramp, a spring visitor popping up in moist places in forests the world over.  Cultivated for its characteristic mild flavor and large and edible green shoots, leeks make their appearance in the cuisine of many cultures but particularly European cultures in the form of potato–leek soup, a particularly flavorful pairing.  But like its cousins garlic and onions, leeks are also a powerhouse of phytochemicals and nutrients, which are particularly found in the large green tops.  It is thought that the main phytonutrient in leeks is something called kaempferol.

An article in the journal Mini Reviews of Medical Chemistry says kaempferol has been shown to reduce the risk of developing such disorders as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Further studies of leeks mentioned in Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrate the ability of all the members of the allium family to prevent a wide variety of human cancers:

"Allium vegetables have been shown to have beneficial effects against several diseases, including cancer. Garlic, onions, leeks, and chives have been reported to protect against stomach and colorectal cancers…"
 

Leeks are a rich source of many of the B vitamins, have more polyphenols (chemicals that are thought to prevent human disease) than most other commonly eaten garden vegetables, and are loaded with vitamin K. Leeks are definitely a case in which the wonderful flavor keys us into their abundant nutrient content. 
 
Knowing all this, I started to see my leek-powder obsession not as something I needed to overcome but something to share with others. We have included a number of suggested uses and recipes on our website to help you enjoy your leek powder and leek salt, but it’s really pretty simple – put it on everything you eat (well, except maybe pancakes).
 
In health,
Thomas Cowan, M.D.