Most of us know the HOP plant for its female variety’s flowers, hops. Some people love the bitterness added to beer by hops flowers during brewing, while some do not. Either way, the hop plant is a fun vine to have in your garden.
The hop plant is a native of the British Isles and is a perennial, each year sending out a new, fast-growing main vine that can grow up to 25 before it (and its many tendrils) die back. The famous (and splendidly useful) flowers have a conical shape and are light green in color when fresh but turn light brown when dried. The flowers have been used for almost six centuries during the beer-brewing process. But long before that, hop shoots were apparently eat much as asparagus is today! The flowers can also be used in a tincture or infusion to promote appetite and help with sleeping. (See more about its history, cultivation, and medicinal uses here: http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/h/hops–32.html.)
Our hop plants, pictured above, are creating a wall of green on our chicken enclosure. The chickens seem to enjoy the leaves very much, and the vigorous vines offer helpful shade from the hot summer sun. They can thus be cultivated like other viney flowering plants, such as morning glories, to provide a unique flower color to the garden. Just make sure they have something to climb (if left to roam on the ground, they seem to fare more poorly) and plenty of space to stretch their green legs.
So far we have not tried utilizing the flowers for any functional purpose, but perhaps one day we might try our hand at a Microsanctuary Microbrew with some of our very own hops. What about you?