Allium ampeloprasum is a very variable species and has been treated in various ways in the past, with many subspecies and vars being recognized. Current classification in the 'World Checklist of Selected Plant Families' (2016), treats it as one variable species, but does not recognize any subspecies or vars, Instead, it recognizes different cultivated groups of plants and, since all of these different forms, including the various cultivated forms, intergrade into each other, we are following this treatment here. We are, however, including Babbington's Leek (Allium ampeloprasum babbingtonii) here as a separate subspecies since it is clearly distinct in its production of bulbils and therefore has a somewhat different range of uses[
Allium adscendens Kunth
Allium albescens Guss.
Allium ascendens Ten.
Allium bertolonii De Not.
Allium byzantinum K.Koch
Allium duriaeanum Regel
Allium durieuanum Walp.
Allium firmotunicatum album Grossh.
Allium gasparrinii Guss.
Allium halleri G.Don
Allium holmense Mill. ex Kunth
Allium laetum Salisb.
Allium leucanthum K.Koch
Allium lineare Mill.
Allium multiflorum DC.
Allium pardoi Loscos
Allium polyanthum Schult. & Schult.f.
Allium porraceum Gray
Allium pylium De Not.
Allium rotundum multiflorum Nyman
Allium rotundum polyanthum (Schult. & Schult.f.) Asch. & Graebn.
Allium scopulicola Font Quer
Allium spectabile De Not.
Allium syriacum Boiss.
Allium thessalum Boiss.
Porrum amethystinum Rchb.
Porrum ampeloprasum (L.) Mill.
Porrum commune Rchb.
Common Name: Wild Leek
Allium ampeloprasum is a herbaceous, perennial plant producing 6 - 9 leaves 10 - 30cm long sheathed around a flowering scape 45 - 180cm tall, growing from an underground bulb. The bulb divides and also produces bulbils, forming in time a cluster of plants[
]. This is a very variable species - some forms have very poorly developed bulbs, whilst other can have quite large bulbs[
The plant is often grown as a food crop - in its various forms it provides several cultivated crops including Leeks and Elephant Garlic, whilst it is also commonly harvested from the wild for its leaves, bulbils and bulbs. The plant has a range of medicinal uses (it has an action rather like a mild garlic) and is also sometimes grown as an ornamental, being valued especially for its large flowering heads.
This species is documented to be widespread and abundant throughout most of its range. The plant is classified as 'Least Concern' in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species(2013)[
Although no individual reports regarding this species have been seen, there have been cases of poisoning caused by the consumption, in large quantities and by some mammals, of certain members of this genus. Dogs seem to be particularly susceptible[
S. Europe Portugal and Spain to Greece; N. Africa - Morocco Egypt and Ethiopia; W. Asia - Turkey to Uzbekistan, south to Israel.
Sandy and rocky places near the coast, as well as in disturbed areas such as old fields and hedge banks, sheltered cliff-slopes, alongside paths and in drainage ditches[
|Conservation Status||Least Concern
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental, Wild
Prefers a sunny position in a light well-drained soil[
]. Prefers a dry position[
]. Succeeds in clay soils[
]. Tolerates a pH in the range 5.2 to 8.3.
The bulbs should be planted fairly deeply[
The wild leek comes into growth in the autumn, dying down the following summer, and makes a very pleasant winter leaf, either raw or cooked. It is a rather variable plant, especially in the amount of flowers and bulbils produced. The species produces mainly flowers with almost no bulbils, whilst the sub-species Allium ampeloprasum babingtonii (Babington's Leek) produces lots of bulbils and almost no flowers[
]. In addition there are a number of cultivated groups that are considered part of these species. These roups are as follows:-
Leek Group (also known as Porrum Group), The cultivated leek is a well-known vegetable, grown for its edible stem which is used mainly as a winter crop. See the separate entry for more information.
Kurrat Group Originating from Egypt and the Middle East, it is similar to the cultivated leek, but does not produce a fat stem. It is grown for its leaves, which are often eaten raw.
Pearl Onion Group. Cultivated, mainly on a garden scale, especially in Germany, the Nederlands and Italy. This form produces sweet-flavoured bulbils clustered around the base of the main bulb. It can also sometimes form small bulbils in the flower umbel[
Elephant Garlic Group. Becoming more popular as a vegetable, the main bulb is formed a number of large, garlic-like cloves that can be used like garlic but have a milder flavour[
The cultivar 'Perizweibel' is often used, the bulbils are solid rather than made up of layers and are popularly used for making pickles[
]. This cultivar does not set seed[
Bulb - raw or cooked[
]. The small bulbs can vary considerably in size from 2 - 6cm[
], they have a fairly strong leek to garlic flavour and are nice as a flavouring in cooked foods[
]. The bulbs of selected cultivars are very large with a mild garlic flavour[
Leaves - raw or cooked[
]. A pleasant mild to strong garlic flavour, they are available from late autumn to the spring though they can become rather tough and fibrous as they get older[
Flowers - raw. A similar flavour to the leaves but they have a somewhat dry texture and are best used as a flavouring in cooked foods[
The bulbils have a mild garlic flavour and make a nice flavouring in salads and cooked foods. Although produced abundantly, they are quite fiddly to use because they are small[
]. They can also be pickled[
This species has the same medicinal virtues as garlic, but in a much milder and less effective form[
]. These virtues are as follows:-
Garlic has a very long folk history of use in a wide range of ailments, particularly ailments such as ringworm, Candida and vaginitis where its fungicidal, antiseptic, tonic and parasiticidal properties have proved of benefit[
]. The plant produces inhibitory effects on gram-negative germs of the typhoid-paratyphoid-enteritis group, indeed it possesses outstanding germicidal properties[
] and can keep amoebic dysentery at bay[
]. It is also said to have anticancer activity[
]. It has also been shown that garlic aids detoxification of chronic lead poisoning[
]. Daily use of garlic in the diet has been shown to have a very beneficial effect on the body, especially the blood system and the heart. For example, demographic studies suggest that garlic is responsible for the low incidence of arteriosclerosis in areas of Italy and Spain where consumption of the bulb is heavy[
]. Recent research has also indicated that garlic reduces glucose metabolism in diabetics, slows the development of arteriosclerosis and lowers the risk of further heart attacks in myocardial infarct patients[
]. Externally, the expressed juice is an excellent antiseptic for treating wounds[
The fresh bulb is much more effective medicinally than stored bulbs, extended storage greatly reduces the anti-bacterial action[
The bulb is said to be anthelmintic, antiasthmatic, anticholesterolemic, antiseptic, antispasmodic, cholagogue, diaphoretic, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, stimulant, stings, stomachic, tonic, vasodilator[
The wild leek grows well with most plants, especially roses, carrots, beet and chamomile, but it inhibits the growth of legumes[
]. This plant is a bad companion for alfalfa, each species negatively affecting the other[
Members of this genus are rarely if ever troubled by browsing deer[
Although no specific mention has been seen for this species, the juice of most species in this genus (especially those with a strong onion or garlic smell) can be used as a moth repellent[
The whole plant is said to repel insects and moles[
Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a cold frame, though it can also be sown in a cold frame in the spring[
]. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle. Well-grown plants can be planted out into their final positions in late summer or the autumn, otherwise grow them on for a further year in pots and plant them out the following summer.
Division in late summer or early autumn. Dig up the bulbs when the plants are dormant and divide them into their individual cloves. They are best replanted immediately, either in the open ground or in pots in a cold frame, though they will also store for some months (preferably only divide the bulbs when you are ready to replant the cloves).
There are usually a number of small bulblets produced at the base of the larger bulb. These can be replanted immediately, or stored and replanted in the spring, They take two years of growth before producing a large bulb.
Bulbils are sometimes produced in the flowering umbel. These can be harvested as soon as they are ripe in late summer and are best planted immediately, though they can store for some months. The bulbils can be planted direct into their permanent positions, though you get better results if you pot them up and plant them out the following spring.