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LEEK (Heb. הָצִיר, ḥaẓir), vegetable. Allium porrum is mentioned among the vegetables of Egypt for which the children of Israel craved during their journey in the wilderness (Num. 11:5). This vegetable was popular with the Egyptians, sketches of it being common in Egyptian paintings and remains found in their tombs. Ḥaẓir elsewhere in the Bible refers to grass used as fodder, and is used for leek once only in the Mishnah (Kelim 17:5). It is usually termed kereishah or karatei, from the root כרת ("cut"), since it was densely sown and its green leaves cut from time to time for food. These were valued, among other things, as a remedy against snake bite: "If someone is bitten by a snake, leek may be cut for him [on the Sabbath]" (Yoma 83b). Its taste is similar to that of the onion, but more delicate. It was eaten to dispel the aftertaste of radish (Pes. 116a). If the plants are well spaced out they develop bulbs which were a favorite food. This bulb is in the shape of a head, hence its mishnaic name kaflutin (Greek κεφαλωτόν, "with a head"; for the difference between the leaf and the bulb see Tosef., Ter. 4:5). The leaf is dark turquoise green in color, close to that of tekhelet (Ber. 1:2).


Loew, Flora, 2 (1924), 131–8; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), 34f. nos. 25 and 26; J. Feliks, Kilei Zera'im ve-Harkavah (1967), 58–62; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 174f.

[Jehuda Feliks]

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leek the leek is a national emblem of Wales, and is traditionally worn on St David's day (1 March). No clear reason for the association with St David has been identified, although some sources suggest that it derives from a battle in which Welsh forces led by David wore leeks as a badge, and Fluellen in Shakespeare's Henry V explains it as a memorial to a battle fought in France under the Black Prince, in which ‘Welshmen did good service in a garden where leeks did grow, wearing leeks in their Monmouth caps’.

Proverbial usages refer to it as the type of something worthless (as in ‘not worth a leek’) or allude to its colour (as in ‘green as leeks’).

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leek Allium ampeloprasum; a member of the onion family which has been known as a food for over 4000 years in the Middle East. The lower part is usually blanched by planting in trenches or earthing up, and eaten along with the upper long green leaves. A 125‐g portion is a rich source of vitamin C; a good source of folate; a source of iron; provides 3.1 g of dietary fibre; supplies 30 kcal (125 kJ).

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leek / lēk/ • n. a plant (Allium porrum) of the lily family, closely related to the onion, with flat overlapping leaves forming an elongated cylindrical bulb that together with the leaf bases is eaten as a vegetable.

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leek OE. lēac, corr. to MDu. looc (Du. look), OHG. louh (G. lauch), ON. laukr :- Gmc. *laukaz *-am, of which no cogns. are known outside Gmc.

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leek Biennial plant related to the onion; it originated in the Mediterranean region, and is cultivated widely for culinary purposes. Family Liliaceae, species Allium porrum.

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