Hops - More than Just an Ingredient in Beer

Picture of Hops on the vine The history of hops can be traced back to first century (A.D.) Rome, where it was used as a vegetable and as a decorative plant. Several hundred years later it had spread throughout Europe and was in widespread use in brewing.

Healthful Benefits of Hops

The xanthohumol in hops is showing promise in preliminary trials in inhibiting the growth of breast, ovarian, prostate, and colon cancers, and may be able to help the body deal with LDL (bad) cholesterol. Researchers in Germany are hard at work developing a super beer that will maximize these healthful benefits. If you are interested is this aspect of growing or using hops, take a look at the Oregon State University fact page.

Growing Hops (Humulus lupulus)

This plant needs a sunny spot with support. It will grow well along a wall, fence, or arbor. Hops like rich, sandy soil that has been turned to a depth of 10 inches or more. This one goes down deep, so get out your spade.

 Plant related hops rhizomes of the same variety four inches deep and three feet apart during early spring, and provide a layer of mulch.

As much as they like a well worked, deep soil, hops also like to climb.  You should make plans for a vertical support or climbing space of from 10 to 20 feet. Hops plants can grow 25 feet in a season, so keep an eye on them.  Overcrowding can lead to problems with mildew, so it's better to thin plants than deal with overcrowding issues.  Because mildew is always a potential threat, water plants during the morning hours.

Hops is sensitive to too much watering, so be consistent but don't overdue it. Letting young plants dry out a little between waterings is probably a good idea.  It will encourage their roots to venture deeper into the soil.

Propagating Hops

Propagate hops by root division (rhizomes) or cuttings. Sowing seeds can be problematical because gender can't be determined for a couple of years.

Harvesting Hops

Flowers and stems from female flowers which have not been pollinated should be gathered in autumn and dried. Don't keep dried hops longer than one season as it becomes bitter as it ages.

Uses For Hops

Hops flowers can be used in home brewing (beer making, which is lots of fun). They can also be infused in a relaxing tea. Hops contain potent phytoestrogens, vegetable estrogens that can help relieve the symptoms of menopause. The young leaves can also be used in soups. Young shoots can be steamed and eaten as you would asparagus spears.

Hops are also very attractive dried. They can easily be made into attractive garlands and wreaths, too.

For more detailed information on growing hops, or if you have home-brewing in mind, becoming a hops expert might not be a bad idea, visit: Deer Island Brewery's Site.

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