Fermented Leeks: How to Ferment Leek Tops

by Kaitlynn Fenley

Are you wondering what to do with leek tops or leek greens? You should make fermented leeks! Fermented leek tops are delicious additions to stews and braises or used in sauces, dips, and marinades.

What to do With Leek Tops

When we cook leeks, we often have many green tops left. Leek tops are perfectly edible and acceptable for cooking, but I usually only use the bottom portion in recipes.

If you’ve made it to this blog post, you’re probably in the same predicament, wondering what to do with leek tops, and I recommend fermenting them!

fermented leeks in a clear glass jar. The leek greens were just added to the jar, so fermentation has not started yet. The brine is clear and the leek tops are vibrant green.

Fermented Leeks

I prefer to ferment the tops over the more fleshy bottom when making fermented leeks. The leek greens don’t contain as many sugars as the bottom portion, so they are more suited for Lacto-fermentation.

You are probably wondering what you would use fermented leek tops for. There are so many options! You can mince them and add them to any cooking recipe that calls for onions. You can blend them in a food processor with pesto or chimichurri, and I like to mix them in a food processor with sour cream and horseradish to make creamy steak sauce. Get creative and enjoy the flavor!

Fresh whole leeks on a white marble surface.

Ingredients and Equipment to Make Fermented Leeks

Here are all the supplies and equipment you will need to make this recipe:

The ingredients are so simple:

  • Leek tops
  • Sea Salt
  • Water

Fermenting Leek Greens

I recommend sticking to leek greens only. With this recipe, however, you can use the whole leek.

If you use the fleshy bottom portion of the leek, you may find that the smell is more pungent and bubbles a lot more. You may even find that it tastes effervescent with hints of alcohol.

vibrant colored leek greens in a jar with salter water brine, soon to start fermenting.

Wild Fermented Leek Tops

This recipe is simple! The hardest part is waiting 3-4 weeks for the fermentation process to finish. Why at least three weeks? Well, here’s what happens when leek tops are fermented for 3-4 weeks at about 76° F:

24 – 72 hours: All contents in the jar should be submerged beneath the brine. At this time, Gram-negative bacteria, yeasts, fungi, and possible pathogens are still present. This is normal and the natural way wild fermentation begins, with all sorts of microbes from the soil.
  
 72 hours – 7 days: After 72 hours, you should start to see lots of bubbles produced, and the green leek tops will begin to change color. This is where you will burp the jar (if using a mason jar). This is when the ferment enters stage two of vegetable fermentation. Leuconostoc bacteria begin to thrive and produce a lot of carbon dioxide. Gram negative organisms from stage one have all died off. 

7 – 16 days: The bubbles in the brine will decrease as the ferment leaves stage two and enters stage three. The mixture will become cloudy and start to develop a pleasantly sour smell. Lactobacillus species are most abundant during this period.

16 – 28 days: Lactobacillus dominates the microbial population. They produce copious amounts of lactic acid, making the ferment smell even more pleasantly sour. This is the time in which the leek tops become preserved. This is when you want to smell and taste test.

fermented leeks in a clear glass jar. The ingredients were just added to the jar, so fermentation has not started yet. The brine is clear and the leek tops are vibrant green.

More Fermentation Recipes to Try

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Fermented Leeks: How to Ferment Leek Tops

Are you wondering what to do with leek tops or leek greens? You should make fermented leeks! Fermented leek tops are delicious additions to stews and braises or used in sauces, dips, and marinades.

  • Author: Kaitlynn Fenley
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Fermentation time: 21 days
  • Total Time: 504 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 25 ounces 1x
  • Category: Fermented Vegetables
  • Method: Fermentation

Ingredients

Scale
  • 200 grams leek greens
  • 500 grams water
  • 21 grams sea salt

Instructions

  1. Cut the tops off of the fresh leeks and rinse them well in cool water.
  2. Dissolve the 21 grams of sea salt in 500 grams of water.
  3. Cut the leek tops to fit in the jar. You can cut them in small pieces, or cut them to the height of the jar allowing room for a fermentation weight.
  4. Add the leek green to the jar, and fill the jar with the water and salt mixture.
  5. Place your fermentation weight in the jar and make sure the weight and all the leek tops are submerged in the salt brine.
  6. Place the lid on the jar and secure it closed.
  7. Allow for fermentation at room temperature for 3 to 4 weeks.
  8. During the first few days, expect a lot of carbon dioxide production. You will need to gently open the jar lid to let some of the gas out daily. At the one week mark, you should notice the bubbles decreasing and eventually stopping completely.
  9. After 3-4 weeks of fermenting at room temperature, store the fermented leeks in the fridge. You can check the pH with a pH strip to make sure it is below 4.

Notes

You can add spices to the fermented leek tops if you want to. Try adding black pepper, garlic and/or turmeric.

Keywords: Leeks, fermented, leek tops, leek greens

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