Leek - Allium porrum

Use in medieval times

Leeks were a staple of the medieval diet. They formed one of the main ingredients for pottage- a stew eaten most days by almost everyone including the monks of Lewes Priory. Leeks were grown in all kitchen gardens. Pottage was made from whatever vegetables were in season and was often thickened with oats. Wealthier people added more expensive ingredients such as meat and spices. It was believed that leeks stimulated the appetite but, according to one thirteenth century writer, over indulgence  “...causes headache and gives bad dreams…after eating it, some lettuce, purslane or endive should be taken, to temper its heating effects.” (Mensa Philosophica: The Science of Dining: A Medieval Treatise on the Hygiene of the Table, translated by Arthur Way for Macmillan, 1936)

The peelings from leeks were used for bleaching hair and eyebrows and leek juice and leek seeds were used in recipes for toothpaste.

A 15th century book of remedies (known as a leechbook) suggests a cure for nosebleeds is to anoint the nose with the juice of leeks.

In the Canterbury Tales Chaucer tells us that the Summoner, “Wel loved he garleek, oynons, and eek lekes, “