How To Grow Leeks: An In-Depth Guide

In this in-depth guide, we’ll delve into the captivating world of how to grow leeks. Prepare to cultivate not only a garden favorite but also a versatile ingredient that elevates your culinary escapades in your kitchen.

Table of Contents

1. Unveiling the Rich Legacy & Global Appeal of Leeks

Before delving into the soil, let’s take a moment to explore the captivating history of leeks. Imagine the delightful marriage of onion and garlic, resulting in a flavor that tantalizes the palate. With their elegant, elongated structure, leeks contribute not only to the visual allure of gardens but also the culinary tapestry of kitchens worldwide.

Beyond their modern popularity, leeks have traversed the annals of time, gracing the tables of ancient civilizations from Egypt and Rome to Asia and Europe. These versatile vegetables found favor among the Greeks and Romans, who believed in their medicinal properties. Asian cultures incorporated leeks into traditional dishes, adding a distinctive touch to their cuisine.

In medieval Europe, leeks were esteemed for their hearty flavor and availability during the winter months. This rich legacy enriches our present-day journey in cultivating leeks, connecting us with the diverse cultures that cultivated and celebrated their remarkable qualities.

2. Selecting Leek Varieties

Embarking on the exploration of leek varieties reveals a fascinating mosaic of options that cater to various preferences and conditions. When selecting leek varieties, a multifaceted perspective is crucial. Beyond aesthetics, size considerations extend to both visual appeal and culinary utility. Certain leek types harmonize exquisitely with delicate dishes, while others contribute a robust depth to heartier recipes.

Moreover, the spectrum of tastes varies from subtle and onion-like to more assertive profiles that invite experimentation. Equally significant are growth preferences, with some leeks sprinting towards maturity while others take a more measured, deliberate pace. This selection process should integrate factors such as regional climate, available space, and individual preferences.

With each chosen variety, you’re not just populating your garden; you’re engaging with a living narrative. Every leek carries a distinctive history, a unique set of attributes, and the potential to elevate your culinary ventures. Immerse yourself in this fascinating world of leek varieties, and witness your garden flourish as you select seeds or transplants, each bearing the promise of a remarkable journey ahead.

Size, Taste, & Growth: A Comprehensive Selection

When selecting leek varieties, consider a trifecta of factors: size, taste, and growth characteristics. Each variety introduces a distinct dimension to your garden and kitchen. Size matters not only in aesthetics but also in culinary application, with some varieties suited for delicate, nuanced dishes and others making a hearty statement. Taste profiles span from mild and onion-like to more robust flavors that lend complexity to your creations.

Moreover, growth preferences play a pivotal role. Some leeks mature swiftly, delivering prompt rewards, while others take a slower yet measured approach. Selecting the ideal variety involves aligning these traits with your climate, space, and personal preferences.

There are several leek varieties available for purchase in North America. Keep in mind that availability may vary based on location, nurseries, and seed companies. Here are some popular leek varieties that you might find available from your local supplier:

2.1 Giant Musselburgh

how to grow leeks

Giant Musselburgh leeks have earned their reputation as the guardians of gardeners in cooler climates. In the vast array of leek varieties, Giant Musselburgh stands out as a resilient and unwavering contender. Its remarkable cold-hardiness is a true asset, allowing gardeners in regions with chilly temperatures to cultivate these flavorful alliums with confidence.

Even when frost clings to the earth, Giant Musselburgh leeks persist, offering a consistent supply of their distinctive and delectable flavors. Their robust growth ensures that the leeks thrive despite the challenges of cooler conditions. This combination of resilience and growth potential makes Giant Musselburgh a reliable choice for gardeners who value both reliability and culinary excellence.

In the kitchen, these leeks shine, imparting their unique taste to a diverse range of dishes. From hearty soups to delicate stir-fries, these leeks enhance culinary creations with a depth of flavor that’s truly exceptional. So, whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a novice, Giant Musselburgh leeks beckon you to cultivate a garden that celebrates resilience and flavors in perfect harmony.

2.2 Giant Bulgarian

hoiw to grow leeks - giant bulgarian

Giant Bulgarian leeks are a testament to the grandeur that can be achieved in your garden. As the name boldly suggests, these leeks indeed command attention with their impressive stature. Their robust growth yields leeks of substantial size, visually captivating any garden space they grace.

However, their appeal extends beyond aesthetics. Giant Bulgarian leeks offer a culinary journey unlike any other. Their ample dimensions provide an abundance of flavor and texture, making them a prized ingredient in gourmet cooking. The sheer size of these leeks opens doors to creative culinary exploration, enabling you to craft impressive dishes that celebrate their grandeur.

Whether you’re an aspiring gourmet chef or simply seeking to elevate your home-cooked meals, Giant Bulgarian leeks offer an opportunity to infuse your culinary creations with extraordinary size and flavor. Cultivate these majestic leeks, and embark on a gardening and culinary adventure that truly stands out.

2.3 American Flag

how to grow leeks - american flag

American Flag leeks hold a special place in the hearts of American gardeners. This classic variety embodies the resilience and adaptability that are often associated with American values. One of its standout features is its remarkable cold tolerance, making it a dependable choice for regions that experience chilly winters. These leeks can withstand frost and even improve in flavor after exposure to colder temperatures.

Beyond their cold-hardiness, American Flag leeks offer a mild, yet delightful flavor that appeals to a wide range of palates. Their versatility in the kitchen is undeniable, making them a staple in various American dishes, from soups and stews to pies and casseroles. As you cultivate American Flag leeks, you not only embrace a piece of gardening tradition but also savor the taste of American resilience and culinary heritage.

2.4 King Richard

king richard leeks

Among the pantheon of leek varieties, King Richard stands as a beacon of swiftness and subtlety. This remarkable leek is celebrated for its rapid growth, making it a favored choice for early harvests. Gardeners seeking the pleasures of homegrown leeks in the earliest stages of the growing season turn to King Richard for its reliable performance.

Despite its speed to maturity, King Richard doesn’t compromise on taste. It presents a mild, yet unmistakably elegant flavor that complements a variety of dishes. This mildness makes it an excellent addition to salads, soups, and sautés, allowing its delicate taste to harmonize with other ingredients.

King Richard leeks are not merely a fast-growing variety; they represent the embodiment of early-season garden delight. Their swift growth and subtle flavor invite you to savor the pleasures of homegrown leeks before the rest of your garden reaches its full glory.

2.5 Tadorna

how to grow leeks - tadorna

Tadorna leeks are a testament to the beauty found in uniformity. These prized leeks are celebrated for their consistent and slender stems, making them a top choice for gourmet cooking enthusiasts. Their visual appeal is not to be underestimated; the sleek, uniform appearance of Tadorna leeks adds a touch of elegance to any dish they grace.

In the world of culinary artistry, Tadorna leeks shine. Their slender stems are perfectly suited for intricate and gourmet dishes, where precision and aesthetics matter. Whether you’re crafting a fine French cuisine masterpiece or simply seeking to elevate your home-cooked meals, Tadorna leeks offer a canvas for culinary creativity that’s as beautiful as it is delicious.

Cultivate Tadorna leeks, and embark on a journey of culinary refinement where uniformity and flavor combine to create gourmet excellence.

2.6 Lancelot

how to grow leeks - lancelot

Lancelot leeks, like their Arthurian namesake, hold a noble position among leek varieties. These leeks are distinguished by their long and thick stems, creating a visual spectacle in your garden. Their remarkable size makes them a popular choice among gardeners, as they promise a generous harvest that satisfies both the eye and the palate.

Yet, it’s not just their impressive dimensions that set Lancelot leeks apart. Their mild and delicate flavor makes them a versatile addition to a wide range of culinary creations. From savory soups to delightful stir-fries, Lancelot leeks lend their gentle taste to dishes, elevating them to culinary excellence.

Choose Lancelot leeks, and you’re not only cultivating visual grandeur but also embracing a leek variety renowned for its balance of length and mildness, ensuring a regal dining experience.

2.7 Bandit

bandit leeks

Bandit leeks are the renegades of versatility in your garden. These leeks are celebrated for their chameleon-like adaptability, allowing you to harvest them at various stages of growth. From tender baby leeks that carry a delicate sweetness to larger, mature leeks with a more robust flavor, Bandit leeks cater to your culinary whims.

The ability to harvest Bandit leeks at different sizes empowers you to explore a wide spectrum of recipes. Use the tender, young leeks for salads and light dishes where their delicate flavors shine. As they mature, incorporate them into heartier recipes like stews and casseroles, where their robust taste adds depth.

Bandit leeks bring an element of surprise and flexibility to your kitchen, ensuring that your culinary creations are always in harmony with the leeks’ stage of growth. Cultivate Bandit leeks, and let your creativity flow as you master the art of harvesting at the perfect size for every dish.

2.8 Blue Solaise

how to grow leeks - blue solaise

Blue Solaise leeks represent a culinary heritage worth preserving. This heirloom variety stands out not only for its striking blue-green leaves but also for its robust and distinctive flavor. As you nurture these leeks in your garden, you’re embracing a taste that connects the present to the past.

The unique appearance of Blue Solaise leeks adds visual intrigue to your garden, making them a captivating focal point. Their robust flavor, with hints of earthiness and sweetness, adds depth to your culinary creations. Whether you’re crafting rustic soups, savory tarts, or elegant gratins, Blue Solaise leeks lend a complex and hearty dimension to your dishes.

Cultivate Blue Solaise leeks, and you’re not just growing a vegetable; you’re preserving a heritage of flavor and tradition that enhances your garden and your table.

2.9 Lincoln

how to grow leeks

Lincoln leeks are the sentinels of resilience and adaptability in your gardening arsenal. These prized leeks have earned their reputation for their remarkable disease resistance, making them a dependable choice for gardeners seeking to protect their leek crop from common ailments.

Beyond their resistance, Lincoln leeks exhibit remarkable adaptability to a range of growing conditions. Whether you’re tending to a sunny plot, a shadier corner, or have soil with distinct characteristics, these leeks have a knack for thriving. Their ability to flourish in diverse environments ensures that you can enjoy a successful harvest regardless of your garden’s unique circumstances.

Lincoln leeks embody the spirit of gardening resilience, offering a reliable and adaptable option that guards your garden against setbacks. Cultivate Lincoln leeks, and let their hardy nature inspire your gardening journey.

2.10 Autumn Giant

autumn giant leeks

Autumn Giant leeks live up to their name by offering an awe-inspiring late-season harvest. As the growing season progresses, these leeks stand tall, both figuratively and literally. Their impressive size is a testament to the rewards of patience in the garden.

When most crops have been harvested and the garden starts to prepare for winter, Autumn Giant leeks come into their own. Their robust growth culminates in leeks of substantial dimensions, promising a bountiful yield that can last well into the cooler months.

Autumn Giant leeks invite you to extend your gardening season, reaping the rewards of their late-season abundance. Whether you’re crafting hearty soups, savory pies, or simply enjoying the beauty of these towering leeks in your garden, Autumn Giant leeks add a majestic touch to your autumn harvest. Cultivate them, and savor the pleasures of a late-season garden that defies the approaching winter.

2.11 Giant Winter

giant winter leeks

Giant Winter leeks are the resilient champions of the cold season. Perfectly suited for overwintering, they defy the frosty grip of winter with unwavering hardiness. As the garden transitions into the colder months, these leeks continue to flourish, offering a beacon of green in the winter landscape.

What sets Giant Winter leeks apart is not just their ability to withstand low temperatures but also their rich and hearty flavor. They develop a depth of taste that’s particularly appreciated during the winter when fresh garden produce can be scarce.

These leeks enable you to extend your gardening pleasures well into winter, providing a source of fresh, flavorful ingredients for your seasonal dishes. As you cultivate Giant Winter leeks, you’re not only savoring their hardiness but also nurturing a taste of winter resilience in your garden.

2.12 Bulgarian Giant

how to grow leeks - bulgarian giant

Bulgarian Giant leeks, akin to their close relative Giant Bulgarian, share a penchant for producing substantial leeks that hold a special place in the culinary world. These leeks are prized not only for their impressive size but also for the culinary magic they bring to your kitchen.

Their generous dimensions are a chef’s dream, providing an abundance of leek goodness to work with. Whether you’re crafting savory pies, hearty stews, or inventive quiches, Bulgarian Giant leeks add a robust and flavorful touch to your culinary creations.

These leeks are the embodiment of culinary versatility, capable of elevating a wide range of dishes to gourmet heights. Cultivate Bulgarian Giant leeks, and immerse yourself in a world of culinary delights where their substantial size and remarkable flavor make every dish a masterpiece.

Please note that seed availability can change from year to year, and new varieties may become available. It’s recommended to check with local garden centers, nurseries, or online seed suppliers for the most up-to-date information on leek varieties available.

3. Soil Preparation

The art of successful leek cultivation begins with creating a nurturing environment in the soil. This foundation is pivotal, as the soil serves as the lifeblood of your leek garden. To ensure optimal conditions, take several key steps that go beyond the surface.

Harnessing the Power of Soil Testing

Before embarking on your leek-growing journey, consider the gift of knowledge that soil testing provides. By unveiling the soil’s pH level and nutrient composition, you gain insights into its unique characteristics.

Armed with this information, you can tailor your approach to suit the specific needs of leeks. Whether your soil tends towards acidic or alkaline, knowing its pH is the first step towards creating an environment where leeks can thrive.

The Compost Connection: Fostering Nutrient Abundance

Compost is a magical elixir that elevates your soil’s fertility and structure. As you prepare your garden bed for leeks, consider enriching the soil with compost. This natural amendment infuses the soil with essential nutrients, creating a nutrient-rich foundation that supports robust leek growth. Compost also enhances soil structure, contributing to the well-draining quality that leeks adore.

Striking the Balance: The Dance of Moisture & Aeration

Leeks revel in soil that strikes a delicate equilibrium between moisture retention and aeration. Aim for a texture that offers sufficient drainage while preventing waterlogged conditions. Leeks dislike sitting in soggy soil, as it can lead to rot and other issues.

A well-draining soil encourages healthy root development, allowing leeks to access nutrients and water without drowning. Balance is key – provide moisture without suffocating the roots.

4. Planting Leeks: Choosing the Right Path

When embarking on your leek-growing journey, you’ll encounter a crucial crossroads: the choice between seeds and transplants. Each avenue presents its own set of advantages and considerations, allowing you to tailor your approach to your garden’s unique needs and your gardening style.

Seeds: Nurturing from the Very Beginning

Starting leeks from seeds is like witnessing the first chapters of a compelling story. It provides you with the opportunity to observe the entire life cycle of these remarkable alliums, from tiny seeds to robust plants.

Indoor Seed Starting: To gain a head start, especially in regions with colder climates or shorter growing seasons, consider indoor seed starting. Begin by selecting high-quality leek seeds several months before your intended planting date. This method ensures that your leek seedlings have a strong and healthy start, ready to thrive when transplanted outdoors.

Direct Sowing: In more temperate regions, where frost is less of a concern, you can opt for direct sowing. This approach involves planting leek seeds directly into your garden soil at the appropriate time, allowing them to grow outdoors from the beginning. It simplifies the process and can be a rewarding choice if your climate permits.

Transplants: Taking a Leap Forward

Transplants offer a different path, allowing you to skip the initial stages of seedling care and focus on nurturing more mature leeks. This approach can be advantageous, especially if you’re looking for a quicker harvest or if you missed the ideal seed-starting window.

Strategic Timing: When working with transplants, timing is critical. Purchase or grow leek transplants and plant them into your garden when they are at a suitable size. This ensures that they have a strong root system and can thrive in your garden environment.

Climate Considerations

Your choice between seeds and transplants should also be influenced by your local climate. Leeks are hardy and can adapt to various conditions, but understanding your region’s specific challenges and opportunities will help you make an informed decision.

In essence, the decision of whether to start with seeds or transplants is a deeply personal one, influenced by your gardening goals, local climate, and available resources. Whichever path you choose, the journey of cultivating leeks is bound to be rewarding, filled with the satisfaction of nurturing these flavorful alliums from start to finish.

5. Cultivation Care: Nurturing Nature’s Elegance

The care bestowed upon your leek patch is the secret behind a thriving and bountiful harvest. As your leeks reach for the sun, there are essential steps you can take to ensure their success.

6. Consistent Hydration: The Elixir of Life

Water is the lifeblood of your leek garden, especially during dry spells. Leeks thrive in consistently moist soil, so regular watering is crucial. Aim to provide around 1 inch of water per week, adjusting as needed based on your local weather conditions.

7. The Mulch Magic: Weed-Free and Moisture-Rich

mulch works wonders for leeks

Mulching is a garden practice that works wonders for leeks. A layer of organic mulch, such as straw or compost, acts as a protective barrier. It suppresses weeds, preventing them from competing with your leeks for resources. Additionally, mulch helps regulate soil moisture, ensuring your leeks receive a steady and even supply of water.

8. Nutrition Matters: Balancing the Diet

Leeks, like all plants, require proper nutrition to thrive. Before planting, prepare your soil with well-rotted compost or a balanced fertilizer. This initial boost sets the stage for healthy leek growth. As they grow, consider side-dressing with a balanced fertilizer to provide the essential nutrients they need for optimal development.

9. Thinning for Success

Early on, you may need to thin your leek seedlings to provide ample space for each plant to grow. Thin them to a spacing of about 6 inches between plants. This allows for good air circulation, reducing the risk of disease and ensuring each leek has room to develop a robust bulb.

10. Pest & Disease Vigilance

Keep an eye out for common leek pests like aphids. Regular inspection can help you catch and address issues early. For pest control, consider using natural remedies or introducing beneficial insects to your garden.

Disease prevention is equally vital. Avoid overhead watering to prevent fungal diseases, and promptly remove any infected leaves. This vigilance will help maintain the health and vitality of your leek patch.

11. Harvesting with Care

The reward for your care and attention comes at harvest time. Leeks are typically ready for harvest when they reach the desired size, typically in late summer or early fall. Gently dig them up, being careful not to damage the tender stalks, and enjoy the fruits of your labor in a variety of delectable dishes.

Cultivating leeks is not just gardening; it’s a partnership with nature. As you nurture your leeks with consistent watering, mulching, and proper nutrition, you’re fostering the growth of these elegant alliums. With each step of care, you’re one step closer to a harvest that reflects your dedication and gardening expertise.

12. Culinary Excellence

Leeks’ contributions extend beyond the garden. Elevate your culinary creations with their flavorsome essence. From savory soups to mouthwatering quiches, leeks provide a sophisticated touch that transforms ordinary dishes into extraordinary feasts.

Recipe: Creamy Garlic & Parmesan Leeks

Here’s a classic and delicious recipe. This recipe serves 4.

Ingredients:

  • 4 large leeks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

Prepare the Leeks:

  • Trim off the root ends of the leeks, leaving the white and light green parts.
  • Cut each leek in half lengthwise and then into 2-inch pieces.
  • Rinse the leek pieces thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt or grit that may be trapped between the layers. Drain well.

Sauté the Leeks:

  • In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat.
  • Add the minced garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until fragrant.
  • Add the cleaned and drained leek pieces to the skillet.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Sauté the leeks for about 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they become tender and slightly caramelized.

Add Cream and Parmesan:

  • Pour in the heavy cream and stir to combine with the leeks.
  • Let the mixture simmer for 2-3 minutes, allowing the cream to thicken slightly.
  • Sprinkle in the grated Parmesan cheese and continue to cook, stirring, until the cheese is fully melted and the sauce becomes creamy and smooth. This should take about 2-3 minutes.

Serve:

  • Taste the sauce and adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper if needed.
  • Transfer the creamy garlic Parmesan leeks to a serving dish.
  • Garnish with freshly chopped parsley if desired.
  • Serve hot as a delightful side dish to complement your main course.

Enjoy this creamy, savory, and indulgent leek recipe that highlights the delicate flavor of leeks with a rich garlic Parmesan sauce. It’s perfect alongside grilled meats, roasted chicken, or as a standalone vegetarian dish.

13. Prolonged Freshness

Preserve the abundance of your harvest with strategic storage. Maintain their freshness by storing them in a cool, dry place or utilizing refrigeration. For extended use, master the art of blanching and freezing, locking in their vibrant flavors.

14. Blanching & Freezing: Preserving Garden Bounty

Leeks, with their delicate flavor and culinary versatility, are a garden treasure worth savoring year-round. Mastering the art of leek blanching and freezing is a skill that allows you to enjoy their goodness long after the growing season ends.

Blanching, a brief boiling process followed by rapid cooling, is the key to preserving leeks’ texture, flavor, and nutritional value. Once blanched, leeks can be safely frozen, ready to elevate your soups, stews, and sautés throughout the year.

With the right techniques and a little preparation, you can unlock the secret to extending the joy of your leek harvest, ensuring a continuous celebration of their exquisite taste.

15. Final Thoughts

From unveiling the nuances of this allium gem to harvesting its rewards, this journey embraces every facet of leek cultivation. Beginning with a palette of leek varieties, the guide navigates the intricacies of soil preparation, spotlighting the vital interplay of pH, nutrients, and enrichment. Planting strategies, whether seeds or transplants, find their place, tailored to diverse climates and preferences.

Nurturing growth emerges as a cornerstone, emphasizing consistent moisture, mulching for soil health, and feeding leeks for vigor. Pest defense employs nature’s allies, ensuring a vibrant leek haven, while companion planting orchestrates a harmonious ecosystem. The guide skillfully addresses challenges, from overcrowding to pest invasions, ushering readers through successful troubleshooting.

The culmination arrives with harvest, where timing and techniques dictate triumphant results. Culinary excellence beckons, as leeks enhance dishes from soups to quiches, infusing them with nuanced flavors. Preservation tactics prolong leek freshness, catering to future delights.

FAQs – How To Grow Leeks: An In-Depth Guide

Q1. Can I grow leeks in containers?

Yes, you can grow leeks in containers. Choose deep containers and ensure they have good drainage. Use a well-draining potting mix and provide consistent watering to keep the soil moist. Just be mindful of their space requirements and provide adequate spacing between leek plants.

Q2. How long do leeks take to mature?

Leeks typically take around 100 to 150 days to mature from the time of planting. However, you can start harvesting baby leeks as soon as they reach the desired size, usually around 1 inch in diameter.

Q3. Are leeks challenging to grow for beginners?

While leeks require some attention and care, they can be grown successfully by beginners. Starting with transplants can make the process easier, and as you gain experience, you’ll become more adept at managing their growth.

Q4. Can I freeze leeks for later use?

Absolutely, you can freeze leeks for later use. Clean, chop, and blanch them briefly in boiling water, then quickly cool them in ice water. Pat them dry, portion them into freezer bags, and store in the freezer. They’ll retain their flavor and texture for months.

Q5. What’s the best way to control weeds around leeks?

Mulching is a great way to control weeds around leeks. Apply a layer of organic mulch like straw or wood chips to suppress weed growth and retain soil moisture. Regular weeding by hand is also essential to keep your leek patch weed-free.

Q6. Do leeks require full sun or partial shade?

Leeks prefer full sun but can tolerate partial shade. However, they’ll perform best and develop larger stems when exposed to at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily.

Q7. How do I blanch leeks for longer white stems?

To blanch leeks for longer white stems, you can gradually mound soil around the growing stems as they develop. This process prevents sunlight from reaching the stems, resulting in the desired pale color.

Q8. Can I replant leek roots for regrowth?

Yes, you can replant leek roots for regrowth, but keep in mind that the regrown leeks will be smaller and less flavorful. It’s often better to start fresh with new leek plants.

Q9. What dishes complement the flavor of leeks?

Leeks have a mild, onion-like flavor that pairs well with a variety of dishes. They’re great in soups, stews, quiches, stir-fries, and casseroles. They add depth and complexity to both vegetarian and meat-based dishes.

Q10. How do I prevent fungal diseases in my leek patch?

To prevent fungal diseases, ensure proper spacing between leek plants to promote good air circulation. Avoid overhead watering, as wet foliage can encourage fungal growth. Applying a copper-based fungicide can help prevent common fungal issues like downy mildew and rust.

how to grow leeks

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Molly Rankin

My love of vegetable gardening began as a hobby when our children were younger and I was at home a lot. I built this website so I can share my knowledge with as many people as possible about how to grow abundant, healthy, fresh vegetables.


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