Wild Hop Harvest in the Backyard

This weekend we picked the hops that grow wild in our backyard in Cambridge.

Hop  harvest

A few years ago we put up a trellis and trailed them along it. Vigorous climbers, they soon covered the trellis and were reaching up to the tall elderberry bush above it. They soon covered that too.

In 2010 the hops smelt sensational, loaded with citrus aromas. We cut some down to hang inside the house but didn’t get around to using them to brew.

The following year, the bines grew but there were no hop cones at all. No explanation, nothing.

This year the hop cones returned but we also had male flowers. Not only are they useless for brewing but I suspect they may have affected the female plants – the hop cones aren’t as aromatic this year as they were a couple of years ago.

Male hop flower

Male hop flower

Amazing that in less than 4 weeks these female flowers developed into the large cones we picked this weekend.

Female hop flower

Female hop flower

We put some of the fresh hops into freezer bags and straight into the freezer, the rest we dried out using a homemade dehydrator a friend had constructed.

Hop Dehydrator

It’s based on this food dehydrator (pdf):

We were even invited into some neighbouring gardens to take a few more wild hops found growing there. They seemed to be a different variety, paler and softer, more aromatic.

We hung some leftover hops inside the house and still left plenty to continue growing along the trellis and up the elderberry bush.

After a few hours of cutting, picking and smelling hops, we slept soundly that night and for longer than usual, perhaps under the soporific spell of the hops.

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