Saturday, August 29, 2009

Harvesting the Hops

Three years ago I planted a small hops plant given to me by a friend at the corner of the store, hoping to train it across the porch railing. The first year it was rather slow growing and I wondered if it would make it. Last year it started growing vigorously and made it about halfway across the porch. Then this year it just took off. It almost made it to the end of the porch and I had a bine filled with beautiful hops.

No that's not a typo, it is a hops bine, not vine. Bines have stout stems with stiff hairs that aid them in climbing while vines use tendrils, suckers or other appendages to attach themselves. Hops are the female flower cones, also known as strobiles.

Hops are most generally known as a flavoring and stability agent used in making beer. Its antibacterial properties also help in beer making by helping the brewers yeast react over other bacterial organisms. Tom's of Maine uses hops in their dedodorant for its antibacterial properties. Hops are also used in a way similar to valerian, as a treatment for anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. A pillow filled with hops is a popular folk remedy for sleeplessness. Hops may be used alone, but more frequently they are combined with other herbs, such as valerian. The relaxing effect of hops is largely due to a specific chemical component, dimethylvinyl carbinol.

I use a dehydrator to dry my hops. Hops are very light and dry even lighter. I started with about 5 ounces of hops, which dried to about 2 ounces. Here's the process I followed:

I pick the hops when they are full, but not opened, and a vibrant green color. Here they are on the vine and just picked.

I don't wash the picked hops, I just brush them off and make sure there is no dirt (or any bugs!) and no brown spots. They are then placed on the dehydrator screens with enough space in between them for air circulation.
As they dry, they fill out a bit and become very light and airy. I try to dry them just until they are totally dry, but not overdried to keep the color and flavor. In my dehydrator, that is about 6 hours on the lowest temperature setting.

Here are the dried hops, you can see the difference...

Hops are a beautiful, hardy plant that go great across a trellis, along a fence, or anywhere that they can climb and have plenty of room. Add one to your garden!

1 comment:

Andrea said...

Oh those hops are so beautiful. I did not know they have those other properties than for the beer making. I am not familiar with it as we are in the tropics, but we have an endemic dicotyledonous weed that resembles the hops. I have been looking for its name but just came accross shrimp plant as the nearest. To date i still dont know, and i saw your hops. Maybe they arethe wild hops for this climate.