How to save leek seeds?! Pfft – leeks are alliums, like onions. All alliums want to do is go to seed! Believe me, even if you’re new to seed saving, this is one simple seed save and you can easily handle it. Here’s how in a few steps!
If saving seeds is your thing, try doing it with friends! Be sure to read the Seed Swap section of our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. Don’t have your own copy? Click below to see what it’s about! If you’d like to read a sample from the book, just email me at Tessa@homesteadlady.com. Be sure to let me know it’s the Seed Swap section you’re interested in. With eight chapters of homesteading how-to’s and over 400 pages of homesteading information, there’s bound to be a lot that will interest you!
Grow Leeks to Save Leek Seeds
Before you can save leek seed, you need to grow leeks – or know someone who is growing them. You may have heard that leeks are difficult to grow but I say, if you can grow a potato, you can grow a leek.
Learning and Yearning clarifies for us that a wild leek is not the same thing as a garden leek.
Save Leek Seeds
To get a quick overview of how to save leek seeds, please watch this short video. Afterwards, come back to the article for more specific directions. I’m such a visual learner that I need to see steps first. If you’re like me, this video is for you!
- As your leek harvest matures, select three to five of the best looking leek stalks and let them all go to seed. That means, you want to look for the healthiest and fattest leeks you have and let them grow a flower stalk. The other stalks should be cut off to prevent spoiling the leek for its culinary use. If you’ve ever seen any member of the allium family flowering, you’ll recognize a leek bloom immediately.
- The flower stalks you selected will be pollinated by insects and eventually turn into a flower head full of seeds. FYI, the seeds are black and small, resembling onion seeds.
- The leek seeds can be allowed to dry right on the stalk by simply leaving them there as the season progresses. The flower head will dry and turn papery. If you choose to dry on the stalk, watch the flower head carefully for signs that the dried flowers are opening.
- To prevent losing your seed to the ground while it dries, rubber band a lunch-sized paper bag over the flower head. If you have a muslin bag, you can use that, too. This will ensure that your seed will fall inside your bag while it dries on the plant, instead of onto the ground.
- If you live where rain will likely ruin the paper bag or cause rot inside a muslin one, cut the stalks and bring them inside when you notice the seeds are dark and the flowers have faded. Invert your cut stalks and place them, head first, into a paper bag to hang them in a well ventilated place to finish drying.
If Leek Seeds Fall to the Ground
Once the flowering heads open, the leek seeds (which look black pyramids) will drop to the ground. This prevents you from harvesting the seed yourself.
However, all is not lost! If you live in a climate where the seeds will survive the winter, new leeks will pop up in the spring without you having to plant them. This process is called self-sowing.
If you’re concerned that your weather is too cold (lower than zone 5), cover your leek bed with several inches of leaves or straw to over-winter. In the spring, pull that back and allow the seeds to sprout, if they will. It’s a worthwhile experiment in my opinion because any seed I don’t have to plant is less work for me!
Cleaning the Leek Seeds
Regardless of where you do it, once your seed is dry, you need to separate the chaff from your seed. Chaff is all the botanical mess that’s left behind as you separate seed from pods and flowers and stems.
Fortunately, with leeks, the seed is easy to see but there is a lot of loose chaff that comes off the seed head.
- Take each seed head one by one and rub them between your hands over a large bowl. Various plant parts will fall off into the bowl. Keep rubbing them to loosen all the stems and seed casing so the seed can pop out.
- Next either blow lightly to remove the chaff, or you can set a soft fan to blow on your bowl of seed/plant matter. Be patient, keep stirring the contents of your bowl and you’ll eventually get quite a bit of chaff out.
- I never get it all because I’m just not that detail oriented but if you want to, keep going until all the stems and loose material are blown out. Feel free to pick out large parts with your fingers.
- Use seed sifting screens if you want to get it “all”. This really isn’t necessary for the homestead seed-saver as it’s purely cosmetic. However, if you sell or trade your seed, you may want to do this extra step.
Store Clean Leek Seed
Store your cleaned leek seed in labeled paper envelopes (I use coin envelopes a lot). Place them in a cool, dark place and your seed should last one to two years.
I usually just replant another batch of leek seeds right away for the fall garden to overwinter. If I miss that step, I plant my stored leek seeds early, early the next spring indoors to put out for in the garden once the ground is workable.
If you do overwinter leek seeds in the garden, you may want to cover your leeks with something to insulate them during the coldest months. I’m in zone 5/6. My leeks have overwintered with both no cover and with a cover, and seem to do equally well. One winter we lost some when it dipped crazy cold, but I always plant more in my seed starting trays in February anyway.
If you plant leek seeds each spring, come late summer, you’ll have tasty leeks all ready to harvest again!
How to use Leeks
Ah, recipes! Here are some links to leek-using recipes – you’re gonna love these!
Well Fed Family has a recipe for sautéed squash with leeks.
Dr. Eric Z has a lovely quiche recipe with leeks.
A Note on Kids
Be sure to include your kids, grand-kids and even neighborhood kids in this great seed saving adventure! Passing on this gardening and homesteading lifestyle is a duty that doesn’t have to be laborious and serious all the time. Believe me, you’ll have a lot more fun if there are some kids around.
Yes, they may make a mess. It might take you longer and you might have to repeat some steps and instruction. These kids are the next generation of gardeners and do-it-yourselfers – they’re worth the time!
Just a thing to think about…
Want to Know More?
Remember to email me if you’d like a sample of the Seed Swap section from our book, The Do It Yourself Homestead. Find out why saving seed as a group might be important for your friends and neighbors. Learn how to easily put a group together or simply learn to share seeds you’ve saved in your area.
If you decide you’d like more, you can pick up a copy of The Do It Yourself Homestead on our website by clicking here. You can also find it on Amazon! Here are a few words of praise from a fellow garden nerd and author, Stacy Lynn Harris: