Humulus lupulus, is a climbing hardy herbaceous perennial vine. Hops are the female flower cones or 'strobiles' of the plant. The hop vines, called bines, are usually grown up strings called a hopfield or hop garden. Leaves and shoots are eaten either cooked or in salads, the flavour is said to be delicious. Hops are used as a sedative and relaxant. Sleeping on a pillow filled with hops is said to help insomnia. Hops are used as a flavouring and stability agent in the manufacturing of beer, medicinal teas and in herbal medicine. Hops contain several characteristics favourable to beer, balancing the sweetness of the malt with bitterness, contributing flowery, citrus, fruity or herbal aromas, and having an antibiotic effect that favours the activity of brewer's yeast. If you want to create your own beer with the freshest hops in the world ... grow your own. Depending on growing conditions you may get up to 1kg of dried hop flowers per plant. Flavour and aroma is based a lot on soil conditions, but is safe to say that the hops you grow would be unique! In the garden the plant will grow over fences and walls, it can also be grown over an arbor to great effect. This fast growing vine can be grown in full sun or in shade and is fairly nondescript until September, when the small, cone-shaped hops appear. It is very ornamental, with the light green hops hanging from wiry tendrils. As a dried flower the hops work nicely as cut material, a charming addition to a autumn floral arrangement harvested from the garden. The pale green dried herb makes a beautiful garlands and wreaths.
Sowing: Sow in spring or autumn when temperatures are around 5°C (41°F ) Sow in 7cm (3in) pots using a peaty soil, Cover with about 3mm (¼in) of sieved soil and keep moist at all times. Germination is irregular taking between 30 to 90 days. Transplant into pots to grow on and plant out in the following spring
Planting out: As the hops have an extensive bine system, you need to set up somewhere for the bines to grow and wrap around. Some growers plant a tall pole and run several wires outward from it, like an English May pole, or use a wire running between two poles at chest height. This makes picking very easy. Once the plant is established transplant to the garden. The seed will have grown into a rhizome. Planting out in late winter or early spring. Make a small mound and place about 3cm (1½ in) below the surface, pointing vertically. Place 1m (36in) apart. Mulch and use slow release organic fertiliser.
Cultivation: In the first year, frequent light watering is best. Established plants can get away with one good deep watering a day. At 50cm (20in), train three or four main bines onto a wire and cut back the rest. The bines will grow counter-clockwise up the wire. Be ruthless and you will get a better crop. Trim back during the spring and early summer. Once the plant is 2m (6 to 7ft) high, trim away the bottom foliage up to a 1m (3ft) in height from the soil. Keep this bottom metre trimmed to help stop diseases. When winter arrives your hop bines will defoliate. Trim back to ground level. You can trim back at harvest like commercial growers or leave the plant until it actually starts to die back. It doesn’t matter; it is your choice.
Harvest: You will not get any flowers in the first year as the plant is establishing the rootstock. The hops are ready for picking in mid-March to late May. The hop cone will turn from a moist silky feel to being dry and papery. When the edges begin to turn brown they are ready to be picked. They will ripen at various stages.
Drying: Drying your hops is vital. Brewing with fresh hops is not desirable unless you like your beer tasting like lawn clippings. Hop cones can also go moldy quickly if stored fresh. The best quality hops are air-dried in the dark. (Although it can be done in an oven on low heat for a few hours) Weigh your fresh hops. Once dried, the weight of your hops will be 10 to 25% of the original weight. When you think they are dry, re-weigh your hops to make sure they are dry enough. When the flowers feel brittle they are ready to store. Hops for beer have to be kept at a very cold temperature to maintain the value of oil in the bitters. Store hops in the freezer. Place in zip-loc bags and remove the air.
Medicinal Uses: It is thought that hops tea can alleviate anxiety, help insomnia, bladder infections and constipation. Hops are now recognised for their strong estrogenic activity and are being included in some herbal preparations for women to increase breast milk and for "breast enhancement" (!) To make a tea, pour 150ml of boiling water over 1 to 2 teaspoons (0.5gm) of cut or powdered strobile Steep for 10 to 15 minutes, strain. Drink 2 or 3 times a day and before going to bed.
Origin: The hops plant has an impressive history and can be traced all the way back to Pliny the Elder (AD23-AD79), who makes reference to it in his Naturalis Historia. The first documented instance of hop cultivation was in 736, in the Hallertau region of present-day Germany, although the first mention of the use of hops in brewing in that country was 1079, it was not until 1524 were hops first grown in southeast England.
Nomenclature: Humulus is a Latin name of uncertain origin, although it may have descended from the Low German word humela for hop, which is the common name of this genus lupulus: literally a "small wolf," alluding to the plant's habit of climbing over and smothering trees on which it grows. H. lupulus is the European hop and was once called "willow-wolf" because of its propensity for climbing on willows. The common name Hops is taken from the Anglo-Saxon "hoppen" meaning "to climb" Placed by Munz in the Moraceae or mulberry family, but moved by Jepson along with Cannabis into the new family Cannabaceae, along with marijuana or Indian hemp (Cannabis sativa). These are the only two genera in this family.
|Average Seed Count||35 Seeds|
|Other Common Names||Other|
|Flowers||Cream Bracts in Summer|
|Natural Flower Time||No|
|Foliage||Glossy, Dark Green.|
|Height||2.5m (8ft) once established|
|Time to Harvest||No|
|Soil||Tolerant of most well drained fertile soil|
|Time to Sow||No|