Every year I love to try something new to try in the garden. Recently I've been on a greens kick, so have been trying new greens. I had originally picked three new greens to try, but after much self debate I decided on just two. Both are Brassica rapas and are what I would consider Asian greens.
The first is Komatsuna which is also known as mustard spinach. This is a green that is widely used in Japan. It can be used as a salad green or can be cooked. It is a quick growing plant that can be harvested in 35 days and in my area I should be able to grow it all summer long. I love greens that hold up in the summer. I figured it wouldn't get that big since it grew so fast. Not so at all. The leaves got huge quite fast.
The second is Tyfon, sometimes known as Holland greens. It was bred as a fodder crop because it grows so well and contains no mustard oil to spoil milk. In Pinetree's description it said that if you want to feed an army on the size of a coffee table, grow this. That was intriguing. I tried to find more info on it, but most people just say the same thing. It is a cross between stubble turnip and Chinese cabbage. It grows fast. It is fairly cold tolerant.
From the top down is Komatsuna, Tyfon, and Fun Jen (an Asian green I started growing last year). The holes in the leaves are from my ample slug population. The Komatsuna is fairly slug resistant. The slugs like it just fine, but have trouble chewing holes in it. I find the slugs mostly on the ribs of the plant. My Fun Jen is so easy for the slugs to eat. They quickly chew holes all the way through it. So Komatsuna wins the slug wars.
But beauty is not the most important quality of a garden plant. Taste is always number one. The loser in this war is the easier one to pick. I find most Asian greens to be slightly bitter. This doesn't bother me much and can add to the taste of the greens if the other flavors are right. Tyfon had the same bitter taste as the other two, but didn't have enough flavor to counter balance it. It was OK, but not great.
You know I love Fun Jen, or I wouldn't be growing it for the second year. Its taste was quite good. In salads it is perfect. It has a lettucey texture to the leaves which is fabulous. The ribs give it a good crunch. There isn't so much fiber to make chewing hard. It is like Chinese cabbage and can stand to be a salad all on its own without any other supporting greens. The other two are much more fibrous. They can go into salad, but the younger leaves are probably better for this and you want them to just play a supporting role, you don't want them to the be main green.
In cooking however Fun Jen falls down. Since it lacks a supporting fibrous structure it dissolves when cooked. So I reserve it for salads. The other two hold up to cooking quite well. When I cooked the Komatsuna I did it much like I would cook chard. I cut out the ribs and cooked them first since they take more cooking and then only stir fried the leaves just until wilted. This worked fabulously.
Komatsuna has a very interesting taste and a little bit of a bite. I wish I could describe the flavor. It is quite different from anything I've ever had before in greens. Most Asian greens taste fairly similar to me. Their difference is subtle. This difference is not. I'm thinking by the end of the summer I'm going to be in love with it, but I won't know until then. This is just the first taste.
As to yield, the Komatsuna and Tyfon seem to be fairly close. I was surprised that Tyfon hasn't out produced the Komatsuna since from its description it should feed an army. Well maybe, but so can Komatsuna. I have read that in some places in Asia they use it as a fodder crop too. Fun Jen is not up to the other two in yield, but still worth growing for early oriental salads before the Chinese cabbage is ready in another month. Two of each of these Asian greens were planted on April 7th. Their date to harvest all seems to be about 35 days. The Tyfon might be a bit qiucker. One of my Fun Jens is already starting to bolt. Not to worry, with most Asian greens the flower stalks make great stir frys. I should get another one started to replace it.