The Herb of 2018
The hop plant is an herbaceous perennial, highly ornamental, and extremely vigorous growing. The hop plant produces and grows as a bine. There is a difference between vines and bines. Vines use tendrils, root protrusions, and thorns to do their climbing along with a bit of twining action. Bines use stiff hairs growing all along its stems to help it climb while it twines itself in a clockwise direction. The hop bines will grow 20 feet or more in a single season and are hardy in zones 4 - 8. The hop is a dioecious plant with the male plant used for pollinating and the female plant produces the flowers/cones. Hops have fragrant, wind-pollinated flowers that attract butterflies. There are approximately 120 varieties of plants with flavors ranging from herbal, floral, spicy, fruity, citrusy, earthy and evergreen. Hops are the female flowers of the bines which are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer. Hops give beer its distinctive bitter taste though they are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine.
Hops have a long history of use as a relaxant and sleep aid and are also used as an anti-inflammatory. Herbal teas infused with hops and pillows stuffed with dried hops help to promote healthy sleep. Hops are used in cosmetics such as natural soaps and deodorants. They have a beneficial effect on the digestion, used by many people which chronic gastrointestinal issues. The flowers also have a natural antibacterial quality. This property may help with some bacterial infections, and research has suggested that the plant may also be effective against some viruses. Hops are used as an antibiotic in traditional Chinese medicine. Medical Research indicates that hops may help to fight cancer.
In addition to using hops in beer making, medicinal and cosmetic purposes hops are decorative. The beautiful flowers/cones can be used in arrangements, wreaths and garlands.
Hops can also be eaten as food and provide a good source of fiber. The young bines can be trimmed from the plants and used in salads, they can also be grilled or baked.
Hop bines can be used in the landscape making a great addition to your backyard garden and can be used to add shade or privacy to an area. The plant can also be grown on a hillside or area where it is used as a ground cover. The plant requires full sun and good air circulation to prevent against mildew.
These perennials grow best in full sun in a rich well draining soil. Hop Bines have stout stems with stiff hairs to aid in climbing. The bines grow to heights of 15 to 20 feet and will require the use of a trellis, teepee, or arbor where the bines can be strung up. Plants must reach heights of 15 to 20 feet before they grow side shoots that produce cones, and can reach heights of 30 to 40 feet each growing season. In August and September, begin harvesting once cones become dry and papery and the leaves are richly scented. Once harvested, the cones must be further dried in a cool dry place. This process can take weeks and isn’t complete until the cones are brittle. One plant will produce 1 to 2 pounds of cones. In late fall, after the harvest is complete and the weather begins to turn cold, cut the bines back to 2 feet and bury the cut shoots in the ground. Hops will grow back each year without reseeding.