IT may look like a giant spring onion or an onion stretched out on steroids, and while it part of the same family the leek is very much a vegetable in its own right.

I have always had a bit of a love hate relationship with leeks, but I'm slowly but surely being convinced.

The leek has stood the test of time and was in fact the favourite vegetable of the Roman Emperor Nero who reigned almost 2,000 years ago.

He was said to have eaten it in soup or consumed it in oil as he believed it had a beneficial effect on the quality of his voice.

So if it was good enough for him, it should be good enough for us.

They even make an appearance on the cap badge of the British Army's Household Division the Welsh Guards.

Although being available all year round like most vegetables now, leeks are at their best from September to March.

I can vouch for the deliciousness after enjoying them in a vegetable soup just hours after being pulled from the soil at the weekend.

For the essentials, head to Greenbanks, Kendal, where they have leeks at £1.76/kilo. They also have 2kilo bags of Harmony potatoes at £1.

It's November after all so what better time than to enjoy a warming leek and potato soup.

Or try something different in the form of a traditional vichyssoise - a cold soup of leeks, onions, potatoes, cream and chicken stock with much debated origins which swing between America and France.

Leeks are perfect for mixing together with different ingredients to enjoy alongside a main meal.

Dales Butcher, Kirkby Lonsdale, has home cured middle bacon at £10.98/kilo, ideal for frying up in strips with leeks, mushrooms and cream.

They also have pork and leek sausages at £8.98/kilo -great with mash and onion gravy - or chicken, ham and leek pie at £3.75 each.

Ingleton's Country Harvest also has a popular chicken, ham and leek pie at £2.95 per slice along with a range of various savoury pies.

Make your own with chicken from Plumgarths, Kendal, at £12 for eight fillets. Add leeks, cream and some mature cheddar at £9.11/kilo for an indulgent treat.

Witherslack Community Stores also has leeks at £1.83/kilo for those further south.

They have frozen Cumberland sausage at £7.50/kilo which can be paired with the creamy leek and bacon dish or try their frozen smoked haddock at £9.95 for two fillets for a soothing fish and leek chowder.

For something easy Low Sizergh Barn, Kendal, has a cook from frozen butternut squash, sweet potato, leek and Shropshire blue cheese gratin at £3.99. Serves one hungry individual.

The Honeypot, Hawkshead, also has something easy with a dry leek and potato soup at £3.99 which makes 1.6litres.

They also have Creamy Lancashire cheese at £12.99/kilo, perfect for one of my mum's signature dishes - a leek and cheese filo pastry pie.