Thursday, February 23, 2012

Starting Babington Leeks

Last September, a friend gifted me with some bubets of rare Babington Leeks. This will be my first non-traditional perennial vegetable in my garden! (I have a few of the traditional ones like asparagus, rhubarb, Jerusalem artichokes, etc.) I followed her planting instructions and planted about a third of them in the garden last Fall, but if they have ever grew, or at least I never saw them. The other 2/3rds I separated into very green, or fairly tan bublets... moistened them slightly and threw them in baggies in the crisper where they have been all winter, buried under other baggies of seeds being stratified. (I don't think they needed to be stratified, but I wasn't sure I wanted them to dry out, either. Information on growing them is scant.)

While I was digging around in that crisper drawer last week, I saw they had sprouted! So today (Sunday Feb. 12 as I'm writing this), my Biodynamic planting guide said it's the right time to plant them. I couldn't find any planting guides on the internet, but the woman who sent them to me said that in her garden they fall to the ground and sprout. (I don't recall what zone she's in.) Well, it is a chilly 15ºF outside, with a light snow cover on the ground so obviously putting them outside on the ground won't work.

I poked a few drain holes in a deep aluminum container, filled it with about 2-3" of potting soil (slightly dampened), and made depressions for the roots. This pan went inside another deep pan, with spacers between them to allow water to collect in the lower tray. I know I should have used a much deeper soil layer, but I only had a bit of potting soil warm inside the house... and I didn't think planting them in 15º potting soil brought in from outside would be a good idea!

I lightly sprinkled what potting soil I had left around the bublets. I don't know if that's the way to go or not, since I couldn't find directions. However, I only planted about 40% of the sprouted bublets so I have more if this fails. (I don't think the sprouted bublets will last much longer in the crisper, though!) 

If they grow, I will transplant them to individual 4" garden pots before all the roots grow together, and hold them for warmer weather when they can go in the ground.

Update: The photo above is 12 days after putting them in potting soil. Sorry about the glare off the windows... we have a lot of light reflecting off the snow cover. I ended up planting all of the bublets with roots... I was afraid I'd lose the rest. This tray (1 of 3) was the greenest of the bublets when I got them last September, and stayed greener in the crisper; they are significantly ahead of the others. I'm greatly encouraged with all of them, though!!

This is NOT a leek in the traditional sense. It is more of a Wild Leek, but not to be confused with the N. American Allium tricoccum of the same name, and more commonly known as Ramps. In tidewater Virginia, this plant is commonly known as the “Yorktown Onion.” 

The Babington leek has many uses... the greens can be harvested and cooked during winter, tasting a bit like shallots. The bublets taste more like leeks, and the bulbs and bubils (underground) taste more like garlic. Medicinally, Babington Leeks have about  same properties as garlic.

It might take 2-3 years to get these established to edible and renewal size in my garden but I'm really looking forward to them! (Assuming I don't kill them while I'm trying to sprout them.)

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