What's in season: January
Get the New Year off to a good start by tucking into the best fresh veg available in gardens, allotments and shops.
We're sharing harvesting and growing tips and delicious recipes to help you make the most of the season.
Vegetables to harvest and buy
- Brussels sprouts
- Spring green cabbage
- Savoy cabbage
This month it's all about leeks
The humble leek has a long and distinguished history in Britain. Its wild ancestors grow in the eastern Mediterranean but, like many garden crops, centuries of selection and cultivation have transformed its appearance and flavour to what we know today.
Leeks were probably introduced to our shores by the Romans to liven up the rather dull native diet. How it became the national symbol of Wales is uncertain, but it is thought to go back to Celtic tradition, long before its association with St David’s Day. The daffodil became an occasional leek-substitute, perhaps for its similar leaf arrangement but more attractive flower.
The species Allium ampeloprasum var. porrum is a close relative of the onion and a member of the lily family. The edible part of the plant is a long bundle of leaf sheaths that resemble a stem.
Nowadays there are hundreds of varieties of leeks adapted to a wide range of climates and selected for their subtle and refined flavours. For most people it is a reliable winter vegetable for tasty soups and stews but it is also a favourite with competitive amateur growers who concoct secret recipes for feeding their prize-winning specimens. The world record currently stands at over 10.7 kg in weight.
Harvesting and growing leeks
When to harvest leeks
Leeks vary in their harvesting time with varieties such as Carlton ready from September and Toledo that can be lifted through to February. Leave them in the ground and harvest as needed throughout the winter.
What kind of soil is good for leeks?
Leeks grow best in a fertile soil. The soil can be prepared in advance by 'digging in' plenty of compost or well rotted manure.
When to grow leeks
Leeks are usually grown from seed sown in a carefully prepared bed in March or April. Once established, young plants are transplanted to their final growing place.
Can you grow leeks in a container?
Leeks can also be grown in deep containers, but they need careful attention with regular watering and feeding.
To help develop a long white (blanched) stem, soil can be drawn up around the plants as they develop.
How to deal with leek rust
Leek rust is a common problem with leaves developing bright yellow spots. There is no remedy but keeping plants spaced out and removing affected plants can help to reduce the problem.
Microgreens are the first leaves of herbs and salad vegetables, and are harvested when young to provide all-year-round freshness and nutrition. Here are our top tips to create your own indoor garden.
What can I grow?
A wide variety of herbs and vegetables can be grown, including peas, coriander, basil, mustard and cress.
Microgreens vary in how quickly they grow but many can be harvested in as little as a week after sowing. Keep sowing every week for a regular supply.
Planting the seeds
Containers should be lined with a double layer of kitchen towel to hold water. After wetting the towel, the seeds can simply be thinly sprinkled on top.
Create the right growing conditions
A warm room temperature is perfect for the seeds to grow, so place the container where there is a lot of light. Make sure the kitchen paper remains moist but avoid waterlogging it.
Harvesting your micro-greens
Leaves can be picked as they get to a suitable size and taste good. Scissors are the best way to harvest, as they avoid disturbing the surrounding stems.