“I must hippity-hop and I must not stop” said Mister Rabbit. So, Hippity hop, off went Mister Rabbit, hippity hop, hippity hop, but all of a sudden, Mister Rabbit felt very tired, Yawn and yawn again, in fact, he began to feel very sleepy, “think I have a little lie down, surely a little sleep won’t hurt” said Mister Rabbit. So he curled up under some tall green vines with florally fruity smelling flowers, and he slept the whole day away.
Hops or its botanical name Humulus lupulus, is so well known for its ‘Beer’ production, that some may think that this is what this post will be all about. There really isn’t any need for me to put forward any details and recipes of this process as many have thoroughly covered this subject in many ways and it would be rather superfluous for me to harp on about these subjects and there are those who know much more about this process than I.
Therefore, I am intending to keep with the herbal theme as this side of Hops isn’t as well documented. But where they are relating, or of interesting and just a ‘matter-of-fact’ details of things, that may cause some cross-over a bit, so yes some mentions of the history of beer will be made.
It is believed that the earliest details point this plant back to originating in ancient Eygpt, but others have suggested “northern temperate zones”, which I tend to believe. The ancient Greeks and Roman doctors used hops as a digestive aid and the ancient natrualist Pliny suggested it as a garden vegetable and during the first century was already being used in salads.
Ancient Traditonal Chinese practitioners also used it for leprosy, dysentry and tuberculosis.
As far as I can find, the first documentation of Hops detailing its cultivation is in the region of Hallertau or Holledau a region in Bavaria Germany in 736 AD. The next mention is in 768 AD, where Pepin the Short, who was the father of the famous Charlemagne, wrote in his will of leaving his hop garden to Cloister of Saint-Denis.
I find this small snippet and seemingly meaningless piece of information rather interesting, why, because why were they purposefully growing it in the first place? Salads maybe? Like seriously, practically nobody ever grew anything back in those days unless they ‘had to’ for example, for food and income, or they were rather rich and could afford to grow something that is more decorative or ornamental in nature. So what was Pepin the Short growing it for in the first place, you can’t tell me he liked the look of the vine and the smell of the flower!
Somewhere from then until the 13th century the use of hops in beer making must have been developed and made popular as the use of “Gruit” was starting to decline and no doubt the governments of the time taxing either the gruit or hops would have had an affect on the use of either ingredient, which would have affected what choices would be used due the cost of manufacturing. It is interesting to note that the Archbishop of Cologne, had a monopoly with rights to gruit.
So what is Gruit? Gruit was a mix of bitter herbs and flowers that was used to bitter or flavour the alcohol. Gruit was made of several different herbs, such as, dandelion, mugwort, horehound, wormwood, heather, marjoram, ground ivy, burdock, marigold and butcher’s broom, and I would not be surprised if a few other ‘secret’ ingredients weren’t added during those times. The interesting thing about this list of ingredients, is that they all have specific healthy benefits, and therefore the alcoholic drinks at the time would have acted similar to a tincture. Although the high alcohol consumption probably completely ‘discounted’ any real health benefits; you know, there is a difference between a teaspoon of tincture and a pint of beer.
John Gerard (1597) said of hops, “The buds or first sprouts which come forth in the spring are used to be eaten in sallads; yet are they, as Pliny saith, more toothsome than nourishment for they yeeld but very small nourishment.”
Nicholas Culpeper (1826), said of hops that “In cleansing the blood, they help to cure French disease, and all manner of scabs, itch and other breaking-out of the body … The decoction of the flowers and tops… expel poison that anyone hath drank.”
I’m frankly not sure what “French disease” is?
Hops has a male and female plant and it is the Female variety that is use medicinally and commercially. If you want to grow seed, you will need to have both growing together.
One of the principle differences between Beer and Ale, is that beer uses hops in its production and Ale uses malt without hops in its process.
Uses of Hops
Hops does have many other uses other than beer making, and also apart from the medicinal benefits, which are anti-anxiety, sedative, analgesic, antimicrobial, and diuretic for example, (but no good for depression) there are other practical uses that can be explored.
- The stems of the vine were used in basket weaving, although I believe not as good as wicker
- A reddish brown dye was made from the wax that formed on the vines tendrils
- Also the leaf can help make a brown dye too
- As a replacement for textile fibre, the fibres of the hop vine were collected and used
- The un-used parts of the plant were used a fodder for livestock
- It has been used in making floral arrangements, therefore has uses in potpourri
- In making garlands and decorations for ceremonies at weddings or to wear bodily
- When sugar beet is being processed, hops are used for an antibotic
- Has been suggested as an antibotic used in ethanol production
- As an antibacterial in the process of small goods, baker’s yeast and cornstarch
- As a preservative during other fermenting processes (If you know of any others, other than beer, which everybody already knows, send me a line, I would love to hear from you.)
Hops can be used straight as a herbal tea that has lots of benefits, therefore making it worth the effort to drink it, you can also flavour it by adding chamomile, lemon balm or lemon verbena or to add more efficacy by adding other herbs such as passionflower or valerian to gain other actions or stronger sedativeness. If you are going to drive or operate dangerous equipment, I would not advise you to use hops or even in stronger mixes.
A Simple Herbal Tea
- Add 1 teaspoon into a cup
- Pour in boiling hot water
- Cover and allow to steep for 10 to 15 minutes
- Drink over the next hour or so
Culinary Uses of Hops
From a culinary point of view, the young shoots were added to salads as an interesting treat. They were basically steamed or lightly boiled and then they are eaten and used in recipes to that of asparagus. The male flowers can be used as well, here they are parboiled (partly cooked), then allowed to cool and then tossed into salads. The leaves of the hops can be used in soups and salads, but they will need to be blanched to help remove the bitterness.
Hops Sleep Pillow
To make a sleep pillow, either purchase a small breathable cloth bag, which you can close up in some way such as a zip or pull string, or you can make it yourself by obtaining two pieces a loose open weaved soft cloth about 10cm x 15cm / 4″ x 6″, and sew up three sides, then you can either sew in a pull string to close up the bag or you can sew it up entirely. When stuffing the bag, don’t pack it in tightly as you want it to allow air flow through the pillow and loose enough to be able to ‘fluff it up’ a bit. Here also you can mix in the herbs chamomile, lavender, rose, lemon balm, lemon verbena or any other herb that promotes relaxation.
Place the pillow next to your own pillow and allow yourself to breath its aromas.
Also make sure that the ingredients for the pillow are really quite dry, because if they are damp in any way it can become mouldy.
The very same recipe described in the herbal teas can actually be used as an antiseptic wash for wounds, cuts and abrasions, or can be used in making poultices. If unsure of its effectiveness, just double the hops.
There are several ingredients that can be used to colour potpourris and hops certainly can be one of them, due to either using its flowers or ‘cones’ or better called strobiles or from the shape, look and scent of the papery calyces.
As mentioned earlier, hops can be grown for its young shoots, which act some what like asparagus, therefore providing food, and you could also use the vines to make a simple means of tying up various plants in the garden or making a light weight type trellis. Just as you can use other plants that grow on a strong trellis, you can use hops as a screening to keep out nosey neighbours or winds or cool a wall from the sun. Or you can keep it in large pots and place them on porches or verandahs, to hide yucky areas or grow them over pergolas for shade.
For screening and ease of harvesting there is a “hedgerow” variety, which grows only up to 2.4m / 8″, literally called hedgerow developed by the Wye College.
If you live near a brewery ask for their spent hops, as it can make great mulch or compost material.
Companion Planting Hops
Here hops tends to have different uses when thinking companion planting for a few reasons. It is a decidious plant, therefore you can plant it with another plant or vine that tends to grow better during the colder months dying back exposing the other companion. Or you can grow hops with another variety called Golden Hops – Humulus lupulus ‘aureus’, which when intertwined can make a lovely display of colours.
It can grow on strong tall plants as each crop will draw nutrients differently, plus some plants like corn like having the base roots covered, and you can cut down both plants once they are spent.
A list of herbs to companion plant hops with are: marigolds, yarrow, chives, coriander and anise.
Hops grow better in cooler temperate climates, but if need be, it can tolerate subtropical conditions if given some shade at times to rest from the heat. Tasmania, the southern most state in Australia commercially grows hops. It likes moist conditions or at least good access to water, with loamy yet well drain soils that have a pH of 6.5 to 8.0. They will need something to climb on, which will need be a strong trellis as mentioned earlier, but will climb wires and string etc. These will need to be strong due to the increasing weight and mass of the plant. Do not grow near electrical wires and cables as it may completely cover them and lead on to more serious issues around fittings, lights or switches, eaves, roofs and other structures.
Hops can grow up to 6m /20′ and can grow up to 30cm / 1′ per day in its peak growing season, so give it plenty of space. Also, if you are attempting to grow it in much colder climates you will need 4 months of no frosts.
You can grow from seed when attempting to grow hops, but germination isn’t very reliable and can be slow to germinate, but cold scarification will encourage better results. The biggest issue with growing from seed is the fact that you do not know if it will be male or female. Now if you are for growing for shade or seed, then that dosen’t matter, but if you are growing for the flowers then you’ll need female plants only. So personally, I wouldn’t bother. But if you’re keen enough, just use a container with seed raising mix, and once sown, keep moist and keep in a warm area until they are up.
Cuttings are one of the best methods to propagate hops.
- Take your cuttings about late spring into summer
- Prepare your ground or pots by making sure that they are well draining
- It is best to use a sterile potting mix
- Prepare your soil to about a pH of 6.5 to 8.0, neutral is fine
- They do like good composting
- Cuttings should be around 12.5cm to 15cm / 5″ to 6″ long
- Poke a hole into the ground or mix
- Push the cutting 3cm to 5cm / 1 1/4″ to 2″ deep with at least two nodes in the soil
- Provide support for your cutting and keep the soil moist
- If using pots, cover over with a plastic bag to prevent drying out when undercover
- They should be ready in about two weeks
The rhizomes are found under the soil close to the original plant, and collect them late spring.
- Dig out the rhizomes that are about 8cm / 3″ from the main crown
- Cut them off at around 12.5cm to 15cm / 5″ to 6″ long
- Use a clean sharp sterile knife or clippers
- Prepare the ground or pots the same as with cuttings mentioned above
- Place them 5cm / 2″ below the ground
- Keep the ground moist, but not soaking
- After about a week they should be shooting up and have roots
- When they are 5cm / 2″ tall begin building suitable supports for training
A simple means to prevent disease in your hops plant is to keep the vine off the ground and well ventilated, meaning to keep it light and airy. Trim the lower branches to keep the lower end of the vine away from the ground and allow air flow underneath. When watering, using a drip supply to the ground is best, as it is easily affected by fungal diseases due to humid, damp and wet conditions.
Some of its disease can be Hop mosaic virus and Sooty mold which are spread by aphids, then there is Fusarium canker, Verticillium wilt, Black root rot, powdery mildew, gray mould and crown rot
One of the more important things to be careful of when collecting hops is not to lose the pollen from rough or poor handling. Harvest the female flowers early in the day but after all the dew or moisture has dried off. Harvest in autumn when they are turning an amber colour, but not brown and are firm to touch, and you should be seeing a yellow dust on them, not orange. The yellow dust is yellow lupulin, this has the resins and essential oils that have those sedating effects
Some people report that they develop a rash when picking the flowers that they call hop dermatitis, but so far no harm has been reported. If you do find that you do get a rash, just wear long gloves or any other protective clothing when picking.
If havesting the leaves gather them while they are young, but they will need to be blanched to remove any bitterness, and also the male flowers can be harvested any time, and then parboiled (partly cooked) and used in tossed salads as well.
Drying should also be done carefully and as soon as possible, it is suggested to dry them in an oven or similar at no higher than 60C / 140 F, checking them about every 20 minutes.
You can use a food dehydrator, but make sure that it doesn’t get too hot and has plenty of air flow. Or you can use a fine meshed screen with a fan and plenty of air flow around and under it. A warm dry location and if needed, a fan would help, plus, turn them over to encourage an even drying.
To test to see if they are properly dry, see if you can break it in half, if not, it isn’t ready yet. Also that yellow powder should easily fall out and the leaves of the cone should feel papery with a springiness to it.
Once throughly dry, carefully place the dried flowers into an air-tight sealed glass jar, and store in a cool darkplace, if using for flavour then use within three months, but medicinally it can be stored for about two years, but can become bitter. (Some medicinal values actually keep strengthening for up to two years.) If any mould forms throw it out.
They also can be stored in freezer bags and placed in the freezer, and try to remove as much air as possible.
The information below is for informational and education purposes only. So please do not “self-treat”. When seeking any ‘therapeutic’ advice always see a Qualified Health Care Professional first.
Hop bine, Hoppen, Wild Hops, Beer Hops
The female flower or ‘Strobile’
Daily minimum to maximum dosage: 1.5 – 4.0 grams
Anodyne, antitussve, antiviral – topically, bitter tonic, digestive, hypnotic, oestrogen modulating, sedative, spasmolytic, and a anaphrodisiac – male,
Sleep maintenance, sleep onset for insomnia, anxiety, excitability, restlessness, panic attacks, anorexia, nervous dyspepsia, neuralgia, tension headache, trigeminal neuralgia, excessive libido in men, Plus, Menopausal symptoms, irritable bowel syndrome, and excess androgen
Phloroglucinol derivatives, – bitter resin – contains humulone, lupulone; essential oil, flavonoids, phenolic acids, and osetrogenic chalcone (xanthohumol)
Oestrogen sensitive breast cancer, and depression
Contaminated with wild hops, which is less effective
Please remember, this blog cannot and should not replace a health care professional, and is for informational and educational purposes only and is not for medical advice or treatment, and no cure is implied in anyway. If you have a known serious condition, or are pregnant, please consult your health care professional, before use.
Russell a.k.a Herbal Panda