Thursday, February 4, 2010

Hops shoots - useful as a garnish/herb

I read someplace the other day that hops shoots were edible. Am always keen to try plants to see if I can increase the variety of vege's I eat. Cause we all know it is both quantity and variation is the best way to say healthy. 

Photo to left is my hop plant with flowers on it growing over the office. 

I am growing my own hops as I have been making Gruit. Gruit is beer made without hops, using a mixture of other herbs to create the four important parts of beer. These are bitterness, aroma, flavor and preservative (important before fridges). So this spring I put some hop vines in so I can make my own beer. Hops, which are flowers, are unique as they have all four properties needed for beer - hence they are now almost the only herb ingredient in beer.

Apparently the soft growing tips of the vine can be eaten after steaming. I was a bit dubious because the hop vine is covered in Velcro type "spikes". If these grab onto you and you keep going they can scratch across you especially on your exposed skin. So I didn't know how this would be eating them.
Photo to left shows small size of the shoots

Turns out that these grippyness is not a problem, except they hold onto each other in the pot and are quite difficult to serve. Taste test... they have a very unique taste that is pleasant but rather strongly herbal. Therefore it would work better chopped up into a salad or eaten with other vege's to mellow out the flavor. Shouldn't be surpirsed at this as most herbs have a strong flavor that is mellowed through diluting it in a food. They also lack substance being thin strips so definitely more a garnish or flavoring than a full  dish.

The other issue was that some of the shoots already had hop flowers growing on them. These flowers were still very small, however it was enough to give a very strong bittering flavour to the shoots. Therefore once you had got one of these shoots you were dubious about trying another. So next year I will harvest the shoots earlier, maybe with the asparagus, so that we have flower bud free hops.

To the left the very small hop flower buds are highlighted. 

Lastly a close up shot of the hop flower

PS the hop flower is surpposed to be a seditive, hence hop pillows used to be made. Don't think I was that smart to grow hops over our office ! 

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