Favourite Herbs: Hops

Hops

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Humulus lupulus

Hardy perennial

Height 3 to 6 m; spread 1.2 to 1.5 m.

Climbing, twining vine with masses of dark-green, coarsely toothed leaves. Tiny, round male flowers appear in branched clusters, while the larger female flowers hang in cones beneath soft-green bracts.

Try these!

Humulus lupulus (green hops, common hops): Fast-growing, vigorous

Humulus lupulus aurea (golden hops): Slower-growing than green hops

Planting

Start with young plants purchased from a garden centre.

How much: At least two plants.

When: Plant anytime during the growing season, up to two or three weeks before the average date of the first fall frost.

Where: Full sun or part shade; needs support (a trellis, fence, or large tree). Thrives in almost any soil. Space plants 1–1.5 m apart—they’ll fill in quickly.

Care and Nurture

Hops is very easy to grow! Water young plants well until established. Hops is drought-tolerant once it’s established, but it won’t grow as quickly in dry conditions. It dies to the ground in the winter and emerges quickly the following spring, so cut back after the first hard frost in the fall. Hops grows very quickly, so be sure to choose a large, sturdy support.

Harvesting

Although hops is best known for the use of its cones in brewing beer, the shoots and male flowers are also edible.

For best flavour: Pick spring shoots: they’re the sweetest. For summer harvesting, pick new shoots emerging from the soil.

Leaves: Shoots and young leaves on tips can be picked at any time during the growing season.

Flowers: Male flowers should be picked just after they open.

Preserving the Harvest

Hops shoots deteriorate quickly and must be used fresh. They can be stored for a few hours in a bowl of ice-water in the refrigerator.

Tips

  • Hops is easy to grow and makes a good garden screen. Grow gold and green-leafed varieties of hops together for a terrific display, but remember that the green variety is much more aggressive than the golden.
  • Hops plants can live up to 50 years! Its vigorous, lush growth makes hops a wonderful screen plant. You can cut away the previous year’s growth each spring, but late-fall pruning means you have less mess to clean up when the snow melts!
  • Dried hops are often used for decorations and to make beautiful wreaths. If you are working with dried hops, always use gloves to avoid scratches from the tiny prickles in the cones.

To Note:

  • It takes 200 to 400 hops cones to make one barrel of beer.
  • Dried hops flowers and leaves make attractive additions to dried flower arrangements and wreaths.
  • Add an infusion of hops flowers to baths for a relaxing effect.
  • Hops oil is used to flavour tobacco, candy, gelatins, pudding, and many other items. It's also an ingredient in cosmetic products like shampoos and skin cream.
  • Hops flowers have been used to stuff pillows as a cure for insomnia. The weight of a sleeper's head purportedly releases the volatile oils.
  • The Romans thought the hops plant sucked the life from trees it climbed on. They called it "little wolf," which gives the species its name lupulus.
  • In the Middle Ages it was believed that Hops was stealing substance from the soil giving it its full name, Humulus lupinus: humus (soil) and lupus (wolf).