Friday, 11 September 2009
It was a beautiful sunny, dry and warm day yesterday - ideal for the annual event that is the harvesting of the hops.
To be honest, it's not the most pleasant of jobs! The bines are scratchy, and my arms are always covered in angry looking red scratches and weals for a couple of days; the pollen from the flower heads smells very strong and "hoppy", staining my fingers a yellow-green colour, and taking several good hot handwashes to completely remove it all. However, the evidence in the picture above shows that it is indeed worth the effort. Not the best crop in terms of amounts that we've had, but teh qulity is good this year - big fat hops - certainly enough to keep us in beer for a while, as I only use an ounce or so per gallon. These will be transferrred to a drying net and hoisted above the stove for a few days on the clothes pulley to dry off before storing. The variety is Fuggles, and drinking beer containing your own hops really is one of the great pleasure of self-reliance.
Commercial hop growing has changed an awful lot even in the last fifty years - comparatively few are grown in this country now, and most of the work is done by machinery. No longer do hundreds of people travel from the cities down to Kent for the harvest; no longer do the men walk on stilts as they tie up the bines reaching for the sky. I don't know the cold hard facts of the English hop industry today, but I would guess it's nothing like it used to be. We planted four bines about 9 years or so ago now, and they do well, but we'll have to replace the supports in the next couple of years I reckon - the strength of the plants, and the amount of growth they put on in just one day is amazing! They are easy to grow and require little attention apart from an annual mulch, and tying in the bines out of the way as they grow, cutting themd own int he autumn and tidying them up. I don't do anything else with my hops apart from the beer, but I know hops are valued for their soporific properties, and put into "sleep" pillows, to promote a good night's sleep. I reckon a day outside in the sunshine picking them would have the same effect! Another use is cooking the young hop shoots, said to taste like asparagus, but I grow that too, so leave the hop shoots to themselves. I need to look and see if there is any use for the leaves, and possibly the stems as they are so strong - possibly some form of basketry weaving maybe?
As usual, one thing leads to many others, and there's so much to learn and be interested in. Hopefully with a glass of home brewed beer in hand................ :)
Anyone else grow hops?
Posted by MrsL at 14:21