Q. “What’s the difference between leeks, shallots and green onions? When do you use them?” —Joyce, Appleton
A. Let’s start off by differentiating leeks, shallots and green onions. All of them are related as part of the lily family. Leeks look like large, overgrown green onions with a white end by the root and broad green leaves. They are quite mild and notorious for trapping dirt between the layers and need special attention to clean. The bulb of a shallot is the part that is utilized much like a mature onion, including the paper-like skin that needs to be peeled off before use. Shallots are sweeter and milder than onions, and some people feel they impart a little bit of garlic flavor and can be used interchangeably with onions. Green onions, also known by the names spring onions or scallions, are immature white or red onions harvested early in their lifespan. Although two different plants, a relative of the green onion is the chive and they can be easily substituted for each other, although chives do not have the white bulb end as green onions have. Leeks, shallots and green onions are all very versatile flavoring agents in the kitchen and excellent additions to your favorite recipes.