Wednesday, January 17, 2018


(Humulus lupulus)

Hops has been chosen “Herb of the Year” for 2018 by the International Herb Association. The IHA is a professional trade association providing educational,
service and development opportunities for those involved in herbal endeavors.
The Herb of the Year is chosen based on being outstanding in at least two of the
three major categories: medicinal, culinary, or decorative.

The modern hops have been developed from a wild plant as ancient as history itself.
Appearing in the records of Jews’ captivity in Babylon as a  strong drink, used as
a medicinal herb in early Egypt and grown by the Romans, this native to Asia spread
into France and Germany through Eastern Europe where it was widely cultivated in
the 9th and 10th century and became famous in a new drink called bier from Bavaria.  
Hops are a distant relative of stinging nettle and cannabis and grew “wild among the
willows, like a wolf among sheep,” hence the name Humulus lupulus from lupus
or wolf.

Although frequently referred to as the hop vine, it is technically a perennial
herbaceous “vine” having stout stems with stiff hairs to aid in climbing versus
tendrils, suckers or other appendages for attaching themselves.  The stem
which arises every spring has a twining nature reaching at least 16 feet and dies
to the cold-hardy rhizome every autumn.  The leaves are heart-shaped, lobed,
finely toothed and a dark green.  Hops are dioecious meaning male and female
flowers are on separate plants.  The male flowers are in loose bunches or
panicles.  The female flowers or strobiles are about 1 ¼ inch long, oblong and
consist of a number of overlapping, yellowish green bracts and blooms from
July to August.  They remain productive for 10-20 years preferring a moist
well-drained soil in sun or part shade and must be provided with support from
string or poles.

Used mainly in alcoholic beverages, especially brewing beer, fresh hops possess
a bitter aromatic taste and a strong characteristic odor.  Originally used for their
preservative value, the hops were later noted to impart a flavor to beer.  The tender
young shoots, which are only available for about three weeks in spring, are also
eaten like asparagus as a delicacy raw with vinaigrette, boiled with fresh herbs
or fried in batter.  Hops also have a long history of use in folk medicine to treat a
variety of complaints including insomnia, tension and anxiety which explains their
use in sleep pillows.  In addition, the flexible and tough stems have been used to
make baskets, the fiber to make cloth and paper, the leaves and flower heads
produce a fine brown dye and the oil is used in perfumes, especially spicy and
oriental types.

"Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you.
I have given you all things, even as the green herbs.”
Genesis 9:3