The local wild hops are going beserk this year.
I've never seen so many.
I probably could set up a little brewery, not that I know much about brewing.
Hop vines, or I should say "bines" ( they are luppolo in Italian), are sneaky plants, they spread along the ground unnoticed and then, from one day to the next, suddenly begin climbing, decorating and latching on to anything possible; other plants and trees, themselves, road signs, lamp posts etc., winding always in a clockwise motion. At this point they grow really quickly and the female plant covers everything with her pretty flowers or "strobiles". Hop plants are diocious, that is, the male and female flowers grow on separate plants. The latin name is Humulus lupulus - lupulus means small wolf, so perhaps they were compared to wolves (silently stalking and then attacking or perhaps because they bring their victims down)? The weight of the hop plant can cause problems for other plants and even electric cables.
Hops have been mentioned in medicine and brewing for many years, even as far back as Roman and Greek times. However it wasn't until the middle ages that hops became the choice additive for brewing ale in Europe. They have sedative, hypnotic, antispasmodic, antimicrobial and astringent properties, but they should be used with caution if someone is suffering with depression.
|Glands which look like yellow powder, containing lupulin, which gives the hop its bitter flavour|
|Look closely and you can see a tiny seed at the bottom of one of the strobile "petals"|
Nowadays, many types of hops are cultivated in different places for their varying flavour and aromas. If you are a beer-loving, home-brewer I'm sure you know all about them?
What do my local hops smell like? It's not easy to describe but, I can smell pine, citrus, resin and unfortunately a twang of brussel sprout and something rather pungent reminiscent of garlic. Maybe they will mellow once dried...
I found a nice and simple way to use a couple of the fresh strobiles, inspired by this post;
bonappetit.com/hopped-up but have stuck to the Italian way of rubbing the garlic clove on the toast.
Hoppy Bruschetta (x 2 servings)
2 thick slices of real bread
1 clove of garlic
1 large finely chopped tomato
2 fresh hop strobiles ( gently washed and dried)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and black pepper (freshly ground)
Toast the bread.
Rub the peeled garlic over one side of the toast.
Trickle some oil over the toast.
Add the chopped tomatoes.
Season and add the torn hop flowers.
Add more oil if you like.
There are many Italian recipes for young hop shoots. I hope to add some in the spring.....
If you pick wild hops be sure to ID correctly and remember some people can have allergic reactions to hops (even after touching them). Please keep dogs away from hops, it can kill them if ingested.