Leeks may have been known solely for their usage in a traditional potato and leek soup, but Fresh Avenue is aiming to up the anti of this vegetable by being the first to offer it as a value-added item that’s seeing more varied usage in the foodservice industry.
Leeks have to have the roots and leafy stalk removed prior to preparation in a recipe, but Green Light leek sticks are ready to use. “Leeks have been around for centuries, however like a lot of agricultural products people are finding new uses for them,” explains Mark Vaughan, managing partner of Fresh Avenue. “We’re seeing leeks being utilized much more broadly: leeks are being grilled, chefs are coin cutting them, they’re battered and fried, or chopped fresh to put on salad. They impart a very mild onion flavor.”
Fresh Avenue has a partnership with a California grower, where produce is grown exclusively year-round. “We use a European methodology in our farm practices called 'dibbing' that produces a leek that has a long white to light green shank which is what most people are looking for,” he says. “The trimmings are used in compost and introduction into the ground; we’re using sustainable farming practices and only shipping the usable portion of the leeks across the country.”
From an energy or carbon footprint standpoint the trimmed leek sticks require less packaging and are more space saving. “Leeks are notoriously space consuming,” notes Vaughan. He says by only shipping the ‘stick’ portion they gain between 30 – 50 per cent more efficiency in shipping and economizing cooler space – and he adds that the foodservice end users save space when storing the product. “There’s also a labor component that’s eliminated as labor is not required to prepare/trim them.”
With the increase in production for both conventional and organic leeks, Fresh Avenue is moving forward with more ground commitments in the near future. The challenge comes in the form of more widespread education. “We need to provide more guidance on the many uses of leeks. Leeks are looking to gain prominence in our cooking. They’re really a unique product and have multiple uses that people may not have yet considered.”
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