Hop (Humulus lupulus) is a vigorous perennial vine grown from rhizomes. Hop is dioecious, meaning female and male flowers grow on different plants. Only the flowers from the female hop are harvested and unpollinated flowers are preferred. A single plant can produce up to two pounds of flowers in a season. Hop vines die back to the ground in winter, and the rhizomes and roots lie dormant until the next spring. Hop is used for brewing and medicinal purposes.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Hop rhizome
- Garden soil
- Fence, trellis, wall or poles
- Sealable plastic bags or containers
- Food dehydrator (optional)
Plant the hop rhizome 1-inch deep in loose, well-drained soil. Select a sunny location that allows for vigorous climbing such as near a fence, wall or trellis. Hop vines can reach heights of 25 feet in a single season. Lisa Olsen of American Brewmaster states that "hop vines are capable of growing up to 12 inches a day under ideal conditions."
Lightly water your plants throughout the growing season, but do not overwater. Hop vines are susceptible to root rot. Keep weeds cleared from the base of the plant because weeds will keep the ground moist, encourage pests and promote disease. Tie up vines so they do not grow on the ground.
Prune hop so only three to four vines grow during a season. Remove weaker or smaller vines so that all of the plant's energy go into the remaining vines. In midsummer, carefully clear the bottom 4 feet of the vine of all leaves and branches to increase air movement and prevent disease. Let foliage regrow on the bottom of the plant in preparation for winter and next season's growth.
Pick hop flowers, or cones, when their colour lightens and the flowers begin to feel dry, typically in late summer or early fall. Only pick flowers and not the leaves.
Dry hop flowers in a food dehydrator, in the oven at low temperature or outdoors, but not in direct sunlight. It will take several hours to dry in a food dehydrator or oven, or several days outside. The inside of the flower takes longer to dry than the outside.
The flower is dry when the petals pull away from the stem easily. If the petals do not fall off easily, or the stem seems damp or limp, then dry the flowers further. Once flowers are completely dry, store them in a sealable plastic bag or container.
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