Hops are the flowers (also called seed cones or strobiles) of the hop plant Humulus lupulus. They are used primarily as a bittering, flavoring, and stability agent in beer, to which, in addition to bitterness, they impart floral, fruity, or citrus flavors and aromas. Hops are also used for various purposes in other beverages and herbal medicine.
The hop plant is a vigorous, herbaceous, climbing perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a hopfield, hop garden (nomenclature in the South of England), or hop yard (in the West Country and US) when grown commercially. Many different varieties of hops are grown by farmers around the world, with different types used for particular styles of beer.
In addition to beer, hops are used in herbal teas and in soft drinks. These soft drinks include Julmust (a carbonated beverage similar to soda that is popular in Sweden during December), Malta (a Latin American soft drink) and kvass.
Hops can be eaten, the young shoots of the vine are edible and can be cooked similar to asparagus.
Hops may be used in herbal medicine in a way similar to valerian, as a treatment for anxiety, restlessness, and insomnia. A pillow filled with hops is a popular folk remedy for sleeplessness, and animal research has shown a sedative effect. The relaxing effect of hops may be due, in part, to the specific degradation product that is structurally similar to tert-amyl alcohol which was historically used as an anesthetic.
Hops tend to be unstable when exposed to light or air and lose their potency after a few months' storage. Hops are of interest for hormone replacement therapy and are under basic research for potential relief of menstruation-related problems.
Dermatitis sometimes results from harvesting hops. Although few cases require medical treatment, an estimated 3% of the workers suffer some type of skin lesions on the face, hands, and legs. Hops are toxic to dogs.
Hops are mostly grown for beer brewing, but the bitter shoots and flowers are edible.
Recipes similar to other vining shoots, e.g. chayote stir fry.
photos: Maria Josephina Everaert aka my mom.Pic1: hops culture in the hop fields of Flanders