Hops, a climbing perennial plant to get to know better

Known as an ingredient in beer, it actually has many sanitising and preserving properties

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By Kenny G

Hops is a climbing plant! You will easily recognize it because it twines around any trellis. With its lovely serrated leaves, it is covered in female flowers, called cones, with a distinct aroma. These vines can reach a length of 10 meters and quickly cover a wall in one season.

It naturally grows in damp environments and by the water’s edge. Beyond being a simple flavoring element in beer, hops possess antiseptic and preservative qualities.

Hops: plant description

Hops (Humulus lupulus) is a plant belonging to the Cannabaceae family, with its Latin name Humeo meaning “moist.” Indeed, it grows near watercourses.

However, there are different interpretations of the etymology of its name; for example, it is also related to the term “wolf.” Legend has it that wolves used to rest under its branches. In response, the hops branches would bend as a sign of respect towards them.

This perennial plant is a climbing vine that can reach up to 7 meters in height. The stems emerge directly from the root, called a rhizome.

It blooms in summer, and it is the female flowers that are used for beer production. They resemble cones and are actually called “hops.”

They cluster together and produce a yellow resin called lupulin. It is thanks to lupulin that beer has its characteristic bitter taste.

Varieties of Hops

There are many varieties, each with its own distinct aroma and taste, which gives rise to different types of beer.

Here are a few:

  • Tettnang: cultivated in Germany, it is highly aromatic.
  • Brewers Gold: found everywhere and very bitter.
  • Fuggle: typically English, it has fruity notes and is one of the most bitter.
  • Golding Canterbury: also English, it stands out for its taste similar to cedar.
  • Saaz or Bohemian Red Hops: it has a distinctly fresh taste.

Hops: How to Cultivate

Hops plants are easy to grow. However, it is important to keep in mind that they require a significant amount of moisture, which is why their cultivation is primarily widespread in Northern Europe and, in Italy, mainly in the northern part.

Two aspects are essential for proper growth: exposing the plant to the south and ensuring low temperatures in winter.

Planting

The soil should be well-draining, rich in organic matter, and loose. Planting is done in spring, placing the rhizome at a depth of about 10 cm and leaving one meter between each plant.

You can sow directly in place when the soil has warmed up in May or earlier in a nursery for later transplantation in May. Sow under a few millimeters of soil and tamp it down with a rake. You can also propagate through cuttings or division of clumps. Perform these operations in spring and replant immediately. Expose it to full sun or partial shade.

It is also necessary to provide supports as hops are climbing plants. The supports should be installed when the plants reach a minimum height of 20 cm.

It is advisable to create a light mulch to maintain the proper level of moisture.

These hops flowers will be used for beer production.

Care

Fertilization should be done in spring, while watering should be regular. Be cautious of excessive water that could be harmful to the plant’s survival.

The soil should be deep, well-drained, rich in organic matter, and have a neutral pH. Add organic matter at the beginning of each season.

Harvest

Hops are typically harvested from the second year onwards. The harvest takes place in August and September, after flowering, which occurs between spring and summer.

The flowers are ready when they emit a very intense fragrance. They should be green and well-dried.

Complete drying takes place after the harvest and can take up to 3 days. Afterwards, hops should be stored in the refrigerator until further use.

Hops
Hops is the main ingredient in beer, but it also possesses many beneficial properties for our body, all waiting to be discovered.

In autumn, cut back the stems that disappear at the first frost. If you want to directly install young plants, do so in spring or autumn, in September or October. Pinch the young shoots to encourage branching.

Hops: Its Medicinal Properties

Hops are primarily known for their use in beer production, where they contribute to the aroma, taste, and stability of the foam. However, they also have other beneficial properties for health.

They possess numerous properties guaranteed by the different substances they contain. These include:

  • Essential oil
  • Alpha-acids
  • Beta-acids
  • Flavonoids
  • Phytoestrogens
  • Phenolic acids.

Here are some of these properties:

Calming Effect

Hops have sedative properties and can help promote sleep and relieve insomnia.

They aid in sleep disorders when consumed as an infusion in the evening. They contain substances that have an estrogen-like action and can reduce the development of breast cancer. They are often used in herbal teas andbeauty products for their calming and soothing effects.

Digestive Benefits

Hops can help improve digestion and alleviate digestive disorders such as indigestion, bloating, and stomach cramps. They have a mild bitter taste that stimulates the production of digestive juices and enzymes, aiding in the digestion process.

Anti-inflammatory and Antioxidant Properties

The compounds found in hops, such as flavonoids and phenolic acids, have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These properties can help reduce inflammation in the body and protect cells from damage caused by free radicals.

Menopausal Symptoms

Hops contain phytoestrogens, which are plant compounds that have a similar structure to estrogen. They can help alleviate menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings, and sleep disturbances.

However, it’s important to note that the use of hops for medicinal purposes should be done under the guidance of a healthcare professional. They can provide the appropriate dosage and ensure it is safe for your specific situation.

In conclusion, hops are not only a key ingredient in beer production but also possess various health benefits. From promoting sleep and relaxation to aiding digestion and providing antioxidant support, hops can be a valuable addition to your wellness routine.

Contraindications

It should be noted that most of the research on the health benefits of hops has been conducted on concentrated hop extracts, not on beer consumption.

Moderate beer consumption may have certain benefits, but it is important to note that the alcohol present in beer can have detrimental effects on health if consumed in excess.

As with any dietary supplement or medicinal plant, it is recommended to consult a healthcare professional before using hops for therapeutic purposes, especially if you have underlying health issues or are taking other medications.

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