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Difference Between Leeks and Shallots

Leeks vs Shallots

Shallots and leeks both belong to the onion family but are very different from each other. The main differences are in their appearance, texture, and flavor, how they grow, where they come from, how they are used, and how they are stored.

Appearance- Shallots are usually reddish-brown in color. They are bulbs and have a firm texture. Shallots are also purplish in color. They resemble garlic in appearance but resemble an onion when sliced. Leeks look like overgrown green onions with wide, flat leaves.

Flavor- Shallots have a flavor of garlic and onions. They are pungent, sweet, and mild. The flavor is delicate, but the pungency is stronger than other onions. Leeks have an even milder flavor and their pungency is also very mild. They taste more like green onions.

How to prepare and eat- Shallots are eaten fresh, chopped, boiled, and cooked. They taste best when sauteed lightly in butter and are mainly used for delicate French, Indonesian, and Thai food. They are peeled, and the roots are discarded. Leeks, on the other hand, being very mild are best used for slow cooking in soups and stews. They can also be sauteed and grilled. The whole leek is not used; only the white portion is used, and the green leafy portion is discarded. They are usually sliced through the center. They should be thoroughly washed in cold water before being used to remove the dirt and grit.

Availability- Shallots can be grown in any part of world where onions can be grown, but they come basically from Europe, mainly France. They are usually imported chopped and dried from Europe; whereas leeks grow in the northern part of United States in cooler climates. They need rich, sandy soil which has a lot of moisture.

Variety- Mainly two types of shallots are available. The first one is the French-Italian like the Pikant, Atlas, Ed’s Red. These have a brownish-red skin and well-shaped bulbs. And the other one is the Louisiana Evergreen which has a poor bulb and is used mainly for seasoning and salads. Leeks. on the other hand. have many varieties depending upon the time it is left in the field. The short-season variety, which is smaller and less winter hardy like the King Richard, and the long-season variety which is winter hardy, may be harvested throughout the year like the Autumn Giant, Autumn Mammoth and Pandora.

Storage- Shallots are best stored at 0-2degree Celsius at 60% to 70% humidity. To prevent them from sprouting, low temperature and low humidity is necessary. Leeks should be stored at 0 degrees Celsius at 95 % to 100% humidity. They can be stored for 2-3 months at this temperature and humidity.

Thus we can differentiate between shallots and leeks by the following points:
1. Shallots are reddish-brown and look more like garlic and onions; leeks look like big, green onions.
2. Shallots are mild in flavor but pungent; leeks are very mild thus used for slow cooking.
3. Shallots are used whole after removing the root portion. Only the white portion of leeks is used.
4. Shallots are mainly from Europe, and leeks are from the northern part of the USA.
5. Shallots are mainly of two varieties but leeks have many varieties.
6. Shallots are stored at a low humidity whereas leeks require higher humidity levels.

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