LEEK (Heb. הָצִיר, ḥaẓir), vegetable. Allium porrum is mentioned among the vegetables of Egypt for which the children of Israel craved during their journey in the wilderness (Num. 11:5). This vegetable was popular with the Egyptians, sketches of it being common in Egyptian paintings and remains found in their tombs. Ḥaẓir elsewhere in the Bible refers to grass used as fodder, and is used for leek once only in the Mishnah (Kelim 17:5). It is usually termed kereishah or karatei, from the root כרת ("cut"), since it was densely sown and its green leaves cut from time to time for food. These were valued, among other things, as a remedy against snake bite: "If someone is bitten by a snake, leek may be cut for him [on the Sabbath]" (Yoma 83b). Its taste is similar to that of the onion, but more delicate. It was eaten to dispel the aftertaste of radish (Pes. 116a). If the plants are well spaced out they develop bulbs which were a favorite food. This bulb is in the shape of a head, hence its mishnaic name kaflutin (Greek κεφαλωτόν, "with a head"; for the difference between the leaf and the bulb see Tosef., Ter. 4:5). The leaf is dark turquoise green in color, close to that of tekhelet (Ber. 1:2).
Loew, Flora, 2 (1924), 131–8; H.N. and A.L. Moldenke, Plants of the Bible (1952), 34f. nos. 25 and 26; J. Feliks, Kilei Zera'im ve-Harkavah (1967), 58–62; J. Feliks, Olam ha-Ẓome'aḥ ha-Mikra'i (19682), 174f.
Source: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2008 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.