As winter gives way to spring, fresh vegetables are in short supply. But leeks can fill that hungry gap. The current trial of leeks, now coming to a close, focuses on varieties that stand the winter and are still in great shape for cutting in March and April.
The assessment panel have been looking them over for a while now, checking for disease and making sure the entries are true to type. They noted that keeping the crop well fed and growing on, especially during September and October when the mornings are dewy, helps the plants to resist rust. I've taken a look at them myself twice in the last couple of weeks and, apart from noticing some rot, other features struck me.
Firstly, the colour varies quite noticeably between varieties. Some were very green in colour while others, especially ‘Triton', were so blue that they'd make good ornamental foliage plants! ‘Snowdon', on the other hand, was very green.
I also noticed that even within individual varieties there was unexpected variation. A few individual plants showed an attractive purple tint; in many the height varied along the rows and the diameter of the individual leeks also varied. Jacquie Gray, from the Trials Office staff, who was measuring the sizes of each variety while I was there, was having trouble measuring some varieties because they varied so much.
The committee noted, and it was clear looking at them, that the old favourite ‘Musselborough' has become so variable that growing it really is a gamble, you just don't know what you're going to get so it's best to grow one of the more dependable varieties. They also pointed out that some good varieties like ‘Toledo', ‘Longbow' and ‘Apollo' were valuable earlier but deteriorated and were not good for a late crop. Another thing they looked at, which is not immediately apparent, is the extent to which the flower stem was growing up through the leek. Many people feel this spoils the eating quality
So... the most promising entries for this late season gap, in addition to some as yet unnamed varieties from British vegetable breeder A L Tozer, were ‘Bandit', ‘Atlanta' and ‘Edison'.
Order ‘Bandit' from E. W. King
Order ‘Atlanta' from D. T. Brown
Order ‘Edison' from Marshalls Seeds