Hops are the female flower cones, also known as strobiles, of the hop plant (Humulus lupulus)used in making beer, among other things.
The plant is produced from the annual vines of its overwintering rootstock and crowns. The rootstock is the under ground part of the hops plant and consists of rhizomes and roots which penetrates to a level
of 15 feet or more below the ground. Rootstock of the hop plants can survive for upto 50 years. In the second year of the cultivation, a healthy crop is formed as compared to the visible lesser growth in the first year. The crown of the plant produces the true roots, aerial stems and the underground rhizomes.
Selecting and Buying
The hop plant flourishes in certain climates and soils in temperate zones. The plant flourishes in areas with direct sunlight with access to plenty of moisture in the spring and warm sun in the summers. It requires approximately four months of frost free conditions. Ideally for cultivation, the soils should be moist, rich and well drained with pH levels of 6 to 7.5. The hops grow well on sandy and loamy soils. Fertilizers containing potassium, phosphate, and nitrogen can be used for optimum production. Given the right conditions, the vines can grow to heights of upto 30 feet. The soils should be tilled to create a weed free zone and are to be planted during the early spring when no frost is present. The hop plant requires regular but light supply of water.
Preparation and Use
Hops function as flavoring agents and stabilizers in the making of beer. It is a cheaper substitute for making beers. It is used to make beautiful garlands and also for decorative purposes. In the medieval age, the poorer sections of society ate the young hop shoots during the spring time. It substituted vegetables like the asparagus. Hop shoots can be eaten raw with vinegar, boiled or fried form. In Italian cuisine, it is eaten with risotto or frittata. Hops are used to make the Julmust, a popular beverage from Sweden. Farmers feed their livestock with wild hops.
The hop is associated with good luck. The flexible and fibre rich stem of hops can be used to fabricate cloth and paper. Ongoing research is being done to understand fully the medicinal value of the plant. Hop contains ingredients like humulene and lupulin. With a high presence of antibacterial qualities, it increases in the production of gastric juices. Hops are also anti-viral in natureand contain high amounts of flavonoids.