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Plant of the Week – Beer Hops

Hazelwood Herb Farm Plant Sales Area – Beer Hops

In a race for the sun, Hops pop up early, and just keep going. As is typical of herbaceous perennials they die back to the ground level every fall, but by August the vines will be over 4 meters high. Humulus lupulus is in the Cannabaceae pant family.

Hops are usually associated with beer, but their use in brewing is in fact relatively recent. It was not until the 14th Century that the Dutch began to brew with hops, and this use did not spread to England until two centuries later. The origins of its Latin name are obscure, though Lupulus means little wolf, but its English names derives from the Anglo-Saxon “hoppan”, meaning to climb. Hops require deep, rich, well-drained soil and three years to settle in before they really begin to yield.

Pliny mentions them as a garden plant whose spring shoots were used by the Romans much the way we use asparagus and their use as a potherb remains common in the English countryside, according to “A Modern Herbal”. George Orwell wrote an essay on hop-picking in Kent, originally published in The New Statesman and Nation on 17th October 1931. He found the work pleasant, but the wages abominably low.

Their modern herbal use is primarily as an aid to sleep, though they can also be used for the nerves, as a tonic, and as a diuretic.

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