It may be a surprise to some listeners that, not only are hops relatively easy to find a place for in the home garden, but they are also beautiful and really rewarding to grow. I love the way hops look and smell! As with many crops we discuss during the fall, now is the time to harvest hops if you have already have them growing in the garden, so we'll cover how to do that today, but we'll also discuss a little bit about how to grow them and how to use them.
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In this episode, we discuss:
- How hops grow
- Bines vs. Vines
- What to look for to determine when your hop cones are ready for harvest
- Hop varieties
- How to use hops
- Like most of the crops in your edible garden, hops prefer to get as much sunlight as possible. They prefer sandy, well drained soil with a pH of 6.0-8.0. As you would for any perennial, make sure to loosen up the soil and prepare the space ahead of time, and add a little bit of balanced fertilizer to the bed.
- The first season you shouldn’t expect to see much growth and you’ll likely not get any flowers from the plant. But the second season onward, each vine can produce between 1 and 2 lbs of flowers each year.
- Hops can grow up to around 25 feet so you want to set up a trellis or support system for your hops to grow on.
- Hop vines are actually called “bines,” which is a term that is used to differentiate plants by their growing habit. A bine is a plant that wraps itself around a support in a helix, basically spiraling itself around the pole or wire. This is in contrast to a “vine” which uses some alternate growth like a tendril to grab onto the support. A sugar snap pea is a good example of a vine.
- Knowing when hop flowers are ready to harvest can be a bit tricky. Here is the basic procedure: First, squeeze a cone between your fingers. If the cone stays compressed, it’s not quite ripe. You want them to feel light and dry—and spring back after a squeeze - that is how you know they are ready. They should be sticky and you should be able to see the lupulin, which is a yellow powdery substance that forms on the inside to be visible on the outside. Also, try rolling a flower in your hands and then smell it. You want it to have a pungent and strong smell. You can also try rolling the hop next to your ear. People say it should sound like a cricket when they are ready to pick. Generally, most hop varieties are ready to pick somewhere between late August and mid-September, depending on the variety and weather conditions.
- At the end of the season, the hops will start to brown and die back. You can cut all of the bines at ground level and simply wait for them to spring back up next season.
These are some of the hop varieties we discussed:
- Cascade hops
- Golden hops
- Citra hops
Heard on the Episode:
“Each species of bine will always grow in the same direction and for hops, its clockwise. What is actually totally crazy is that scarlet runner beans wrap clockwise and other standard garden pole beans grow counter clockwise!” - Hilary Dahl
“I had no idea that hops were so easy to grow at home.” - Kellie Phelan
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