The Great Leek Crisis of 2021

  • The health benefits of St David’s Day 
  • The great leek crisis and what it means 
  • Good Life Letter readers respond to my letter about post-Brexit food labelling (we even have a response from Plaid Cymru!)

It was St David’s Day earlier in the week.

Traditionally, the Welsh wear a leek to celebrate.


One story is that a troop of Welsh soldiers used leeks to distinguish themselves from English attackers who were dressed in similar garb.

Another that it was actually Saxon invaders.

Another is that the Tudor dynasty ordered their guards to wear leeks on March 1 to honour the patron saint of Wales.

Whatever the truth, there is still a lot of leek action in Wales on March 1st in modern times.

For instance, the Royal Welsh regiment chomp through raw leeks in an annual ceremony (though I assume it was on hold this year because of the pandemic).

That sounds a little eye-watering, but it’s actually very good for you.

Leeks are full of quercetin, which is an anti-inflammatory antioxidant.

When you crush, chop or chew them, it releases an enzyme that makes allicin. This in turn produces sulfenic acid which fights inflammation.

On top of that, leeks are packed with vitamins A, C and K.

So a few portions will do you some good this week, whether you’re Welsh or not.

Traditionally on St David’s Day people cook them up into soups and a type of Welsh stew called cawl, which is made from cheaper cuts of lamb or beef with vegetables like carrots and swede.

All good stuff…

Except this year there was a bit of a problem.

The Great Leek Crisis of 2021

A few days before St David’s Day, newspapers reported a LEEK SHORTAGE.

The British Leek Growers’ Association said that the “unexpected growth in demand coupled with a harsh spring in 2020” meant that suppliers were having to import leeks from other countries.

Issues related to coronavirus and Brexit importation meant that a lot of the leeks that did get sold were coming from as far away as Turkey!

A farmer from Lincolnshire told The Independent:

“It’s not so bad bringing them from Belgium, Holland perhaps, which would be a couple of days on a lorry and of course now you’ve probably got a day at Dover. But from Turkey you’ve got two or three days over land before you even get to the Channel, so the freshness definitely won’t be there.”

This is precisely the kind of worry I have at the moment regarding food supply.

When we import vegetables, the quality, freshness and nutritional content plummets. This is why it’s important – if you can – to eat locally and with the seasons.

And talking of imports…

An amazing response to my letter about US imports

A few weeks ago I wrote about my worries regarding post-Brexit food labelling – in particular, on imports from the US, where food standards are lower.

I argued that we deserve proper labels that tell us where food has come from, how it has been grown or reared and what additives are in it.

As I expected, a lot of Good Life Letter readers were in support of this.

Pauline wrote: “I had a sense of foreboding when the UK was trying to set up a post Brexit trade deal with the USA.  One of the US stipulations was the export of many of their meat products which like you I know are not ethically reared and full of chemicals.

The UK has some of the best animal welfare standards in the world, although there is still room for improvement, but post Brexit live transport of animals to countries which have very little or no welfare standards reared its ugly head once again.”

Another reader agreed that proper ingredient labelling is essential for us to exercise our choices. He adds:

“It would not require a large proportion of customers to either tell, email or ‘phone the store manager of their desires, return the product, or NOT BUY IT, to cause economic damage to a supermarket. 10% sales drop would be harmful, 20% disastrous.”

Meanwhile Julien emailed me to say:

“I found this very disturbing especially after all the problems with Covid. Our poorer citizens will be forced to buy this junk, probably without knowing what they are buying.”

He actually forwarded my letter to his local MP, Ben Lake of Plaid Cymru so he could raise these concerns in Parliament.

This was the response…

An MP responds to the Good Life Letter

“Like you, Ben is very concerned about food standards, particularly in terms of the food imported into the UK from countries such as the United States.

We believe that food standards and methods of production are crucial aspects in future trade negotiations, and that they should not be undermined.

Quite simply, trade agreements struck by the UK should ensure that goods imported into the UK are produced to the same high standards expected of domestic produce. We expect other imported goods – such as cars and children’s toys – to meet certain standards, and the same should be true for food and agricultural products.

Please be assured that we will continue to support efforts to safeguard our high standards of food safety, animal welfare, and environmental protections.”

So hopefully if we can all keep the pressure up, we can protect our right to know what we are eating.

And I’ll finish with a film recommendation from a reader who emailed me to say:

“Not sure if you’ve seen a documentary Kiss the Ground it was about how farming in the US has caused soil degradation. It also touched on the overuse of pesticides. Well worth a watch.”

Well, I hadn’t seen this film and I’m really glad I did, so thanks!

You can see a trailer for it here: Kiss The Ground

That’s it’s from me today – do keep your emails coming and I’ll be back with more over the weekend.