Eating hop shoots

We dabble in home brewed beer and wine – time and space and other interests currently keep us from wading as deep as we would like, hic. This was one of the reasons that a few years ago, we obtained some hop plants from Deacon’s nursery on the Isle of Wight . They’re almost certainly planted too close together (suggestions range from 1ft to 5ft – as usual it would seem that six inches of soil on top of pure chalk wouldn’t be top of their list of desirable homes either), but at about 2ft apart we still can keep track of which plant is which while we learn more about them. Cuttings are easy as they root like they’ve been taking lessons from bindweed, and we’ve been able to pass a number on to friends and other gardeners. We chose the popular varieties Fuggles (aha!), Mathon and Cobbs (types of Goldings, of which Mathon is supposedly more rain resistant).

We’ve had a couple of harvests of hop flowers (see above about hopelessly optimistic planting) and used them in beer. Mmmm beer. However, each year, you are only supposed to allow a few shoots to continue growing (one or two in commercial situations!) and the “hills” throw up scores of them. This I suspect is the reason that in times gone by, apparently the shoots used to make a regular appearance in London markets – when Kent and surrounding areas would have had a surplus of such shoots every year, it must have been a useful sideline.

As we are confident our hops are settled in, this year we’ve tried our first few hop shoots, cooked and served “as a side dish similar to asparagus” (a phrase which is only slightly less ominous than “may be used as a spinach substitute”). Wary, we doused them with butter – and were in fact pleasantly surprised. Although I’d say that the predominant flavour could best be described as “green”, there was no bitterness (which some sources warn of and suggest cooking in changes of water) and they were tender quite a long way down the stalk. I can see that if you were growing seriously they would be produced in such quantities that it would be very worthwhile to harvest and sell. Even on our home garden scale, they’re welcome as fresh greenery when a lot of spring vegetables are only just starting to get going.

If you’re unfamiliar with the different uses of hops, PFAF’s site is as always an excellent starting point:
http://www.pfaf.org/database/plants.php?Humulus+lupulus

Hop shoots still in the ground Hop shoots need a good rinsing before cooking

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5 thoughts on “Eating hop shoots

  1. Flummery (Veg Heaven) says:

    Hi, I’ve got a hop growing alongside my allotment that’s undoubtedly ancient. It was a transplant from the site of the medieval village that preceded out current village. I love the smell!

  2. MissFuggles says:

    Magic Cochin – thanks, I will try that suggestion. My better half thinks the they have a taste like green beans (and also thinks I should have listened to him when he told me to put that in the original post!). Hop tart might be a possibility next year!

    Flummery – lovely to see you here! I wonder if it’s a wild one or a relic of a grower long past? I love the smell too (perhaps particularly when it follows the smell of malt in the pan mmmm!) – if ever we have a glut of hops (is there such a thing as “too much beer”) I would be interested in trying a hop pillow, to go along with my lavender wands.

  3. Patrick says:

    I’ve never grown hops, but I’ve been thinking about it for a while now. The day may come where I ask for some of your plants. This is a great post by the way.

  4. Claudio Piccoli says:

    In italy, where I live, there’s plenty of wild hops growing everywhere. We harvest the tips of the branches as they climb on trees, fences etc. we quickly boil them 3 minutes in very little water, just enough to cover them and then proceed to cook them in a variety of ways. We make omeletttes, risotto, pasta, lasagna, or use them as a side afterseasoning with raw HQ extra-virgin olive oil, lemon juice (and salt of course) or we sauté or stir fry them in e.v.o. oil with garlic and chili. So, basically we cook them in all the ways we cook wild asparagi or any other vegetable like wild chicory, spinach etc. They are highly prized, especially in north-esat Italy (Veneto region) where they are called “bruscandoli”.

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