This photo has been dusted off for St David’s Day for quite a while now – taken in 2009 it was originally used to promote The Really Welsh Company who grew Welsh daffodils and leeks commercially near Cowbridge.

As familiar as the photo is to some, so will the story that dad always told us at this time of year. When he was at primary school, it was unusual to be able to find a daffodil in flower for the beginning of March so he would be sent off to school with one of his dad’s huge and very strong-smelling leeks. He said it was often almost as tall as he was and had to return home at the end of the day for the ‘cawl pot’.

The tradition of leeks being used to celebrate Wales’ national day is apparently in memory of a battle in 640 AD, when King Cadwallader defeated the invading Saxons. Both armies had similar armour and so the Welsh distinguished themselves by wearing leeks on their helmets. They definitely wouldn’t have been my granddad’s giant leeks!

It is thought the daffodil was introduced as a second Welsh emblem or symbol by accident. The Welsh word for leek is Cenhinen, and the Welsh word for daffodil, Cenhinen Pedr, (meaning Peter’s leek) so could have easily been confused in translation. Plus sporting an actual daffodil was, and still is, probably a lot more ‘socially acceptable’ than a leek.

Anyway, fast forward 75 years from my dad being in primary school (that hardly seems possible) and this year it may well be difficult to find a British grown leek to commemorate or to make cawl with on St David’s Day.

It is apparently the ‘most difficult season ever’ for British grown leeks due to last year’s weather pattern. Leeks are usually sown in spring and harvested from early autumn through to late winter and last summers high temperatures and a lack of rain, followed by a period of cold weather put the crops on a ‘knife’s veg’.

Whilst I haven’t been affected by being rationed to three packs of tomatoes or three cucumbers (who on earth buys three cucumbers in one go anyway?) I do use a lot of leeks–they are a great base for heartening soups, stews and creamy risottos in the cold weather.

Many British leek growers are also fearing another drought this summer and are therefore reducing the size of their commercial crops, so it might be a good idea to grow your own. They are a relatively easy crop to grow and take up little room compared to other root veg. They can also be grown in deep containers like barrels.

Traditionally, leeks are sown into a seed bed, off the main vegetable plot, and transplanted in early summer, only because otherwise they would take up valuable space for fast maturing crops like lettuce. Don’t get too caught up in the technical stuff though. I always say seeds are better in the ground than the packet – which is where they stay if you stress about it all too much.

This month sow leek seeds thinly, ½in deep, in rows 6in apart, or you can sow in small individual ‘cells’ in a seed tray indoors. Sow one seed per module/cell and the seedlings can be transplanted into the veg bed with minimal root disturbance later.