Soups, gratins, panna cotta and more great recipe ideas for leeks, now in season

Noelle Carter

What's in season: At first glance, leeks probably look a bit like massive green onions, with bunches of two or three bundled together with a rubber band or twine. A member of the allium family, leeks are closely related to onions, garlic, shallots — and, yes, green onions. The vegetables are prized for imparting subtle but fragrant notes to a variety of dishes, and they've been popular since ancient times (the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate them to improve his singing voice). While leeks can be found year-round, they're a classic spring vegetable, available in markets from late winter through early summer.

14 of our favorite recipes featuring leeks »

What to cook: Leeks will need a good cleaning before using, as dirt often gets stuck between the layers of leaves as they grow. With the root still intact, halve the leeks lengthwise, running the plant under cool water to wash away any bits of dirt or sand. Slice or chop the tender portion (the white and light green parts), sautéeing or slowly sweating them to soften and mellow their flavor. Add leeks to stews or ragouts, or get creative, incorporating the vegetable in a savory panna cotta, or thinly sliced and fried for a crunchy garnish. Save the tough outer green parts to infuse flavor in stocks and broths.

What's on the horizon: Cherimoya, also known as the “custard apple,” is prized for its velvety texture and sweet flavor, with notes of banana, papaya and pineapple, and should be available through late spring.