One of the items of diet for which the mixed crowd and the Israelites longed while in the wilderness. (Num. 11:4, 5) The Hebrew word hha·tsirʹ, rendered “leeks” in this text, is elsewhere generally translated “grass” or “green grass.” However, there is a valid basis for making an exception at Numbers 11:5, the rendering of “leeks” here being supported by such ancient versions as the Septuagint, the Peshitta and the Vulgate. This item of diet is listed along with onions and garlic, specific plant foods very similar to leeks, indicating that a definite vegetable, rather than grass in general, is meant. Also, from ancient times leeks have enjoyed great popularity in Egypt and are still commonly eaten there as well as in Palestine.
The leek is much like the onion but is distinguished from the latter by its milder flavor, slender cylindrical bulb and juicy, grasslike leaves measuring about an inch (c. 2.5 centimeters) in width. The flower stem, terminating in a large compact ball of flowers, may attain a height of about two feet (c. .6 meter). The bulbs and leaves of this biennial plant are cooked as a vegetable and used as a seasoning; they are also eaten raw.
[Picture on page 1052]
The slender, cylindrical bulb of the leek distinguishes it from the onion