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In praise of Tyfon, King of Greens!

photo courtesy of Daphne's DandelionsBack in the summer of 2008 when I was first ordering plants for our winter garden, I came across an item called "tyfon" or "Holland greens." It was in the section of the Territorial Seed catalog devoted to cover crops, and indeed when the seed packet arrived it said "EDIBLE GREEN MANURE."  How appetizing!  But in farming lingo, a "green manure" is just a cover crop that improves the soil... multiple sources said that tyfon could be eaten by people as well as animals, so I ordered it, along with several other crops that Territorial promised were winter-hardy.

Guess what?  None of the other crops were anywhere near as winter-hardy as the tyfon.  It was the last plant producing leaves in the fall and the first to come up in the spring.  I planted it again for the second winter, which turned out to be far more brutal than the first, and after the greenhouse collapsed in our Christmas Day snowstorm, the only two plants to survive the winter were tyfon and dandelion.  What's more, Jessie and I found the greens to be palatable and versatile, and much to our surprise it's also been our most profitable and dependable crop at the farmer's market!  So here are some of tyfon's great qualities:

  1. photo courtesy of Purdue.eduIt keeps producing all season long.  Plant it in the spring or fall -- you'll have greens all year, long after other varieties of greens have stopped producing, so if you sell them at market for a dollar a bag, a $4 packet of seeds can easily pay for itself more than 10 times over.  When the plant does finally get around to bolting, the leaves actually get milder, more succulent, and less hairy.  There's also a turnip-like root (photo at right), if you're into that sort of thing.
  2. It likes heavy clay soil.  Most of the other winter crops I planted didn't even germinate in our soil.  Kale, mâche... the winter-garden all-stars wimped out, but tyfon was happy.
  3. It tolerates crowding.  Radishes germinate well in our soil, but they have to be spaced apart or they just get leggy and useless.  Tyfon is happy to grow shoulder-to-shoulder with its peers.
  4. It's disease resistant.  Don't get me wrong, bugs eat it.  But while the individual leaves get holes, the plant itself stays healthy.  I have yet to see a sick tyfon plant.
  5. It's reasonably palatable and nutritious.  Nobody's going to rave about the wonderful flavor of tyfon by itself.  The leaves are so much milder than turnip greens, they're basically like cooked spinach.  But as such they absorb flavors well, so you can cook them in soy sauce or ramen or with bacon or whatever flavor you like, and they come out tasting great.  They make a good substitute for spinach in lasagna and other recipes -- Jessie made a chicken-with-greens dish that earned raves from everyone at a family potluck, and nobody guessed it wasn't spinach.  I don't recommend eating tyfon greens raw, since they are hairy.
  6. It improves the soil -- theoretically.  It's not a legume, so it doesn't add nitrogen.  If you pull it up rather than tilling it in at the end of the season, the amount of organic matter it adds will be limited to the side roots, like any other crop.  So I'm not counting on it to improve the soil, personally.

I wanted to share about this crop because nobody knows about it, and it has really saved our garden from mediocrity.  Give tyfon a try!

Learn more about tyfon:

Territorial Seed no longer offers tyfon, but you can order seeds from these sites:

 Thanks to Morgan L'Argent for helping to find these links!

Comments

Thanks for this post!  I ordered Tyfon greens from the Pinetree Garden Seeds catalog, and they're sprouting in my garden now (I'm in the Phoenix area).  I sat down today to Google them to learn a bit more than the description that grabbed me from the catalog.  However, I was growing a little discouraged;  most people seem to grow Tyfon to feed to their chickens.  :D  Your post is by far the most informative, and quite encouraging!!  Thanks, especially for the bit that they're hairy, and that they still taste good after bolting.

I'm glad to hear you're giving Tyfon a try, and that you found my information helpful.  I hope you enjoy your crop of tyfon as well.  Spread the word!  :-)

have loved this for many years, originally got it from Bountiful Gardens as a cover crop/green manure. sSomewhere (original catalog?) I read that because it's a cross (tho within Brassica) its sulfur content is lower, making it milder, would love to have the real skinny on that. SO Easy to grow! gcooks right down tho, more so than even the mustard greens you'd buy in the store. Far better flavor! Maybe it's the livestock connotation but I don't understand why this terrific green isn't more popular. Would also like to know more about the Dutch connection, & its use in their cooking.

Thanks for commenting!  I tried to order some from Bountiful Gardens a few weeks ago, and I was pleased to find some other great deals at that site, but they no longer carry tyfon.  They've now removed it from their catalog, and I've removed the link to their site from the list above.  I just ordered some from Pinetree Gardens -- we'll see if they still carry it!  :)

I'e just ordered some seed. From your post, I'm hoping I might get lucky and find tyfon to be a good spring/fall addition for both the people and the chickens. Any idea of how it compares to the other brassicas nutritionally?