On hops “asparagus”

Good gardeners actually repeatedly trim the shoots or are otherwise overwhelmed.  Might as well eat the gleanings.

During garden cleanup last weekend, I considered my sprawling hops vines, dried and new.  They sprawl because I have not yet re-erected their trellis after last year’s windstorm.  (It’s on the everlong To Do list.)  And like any curious gardener and hungry person, I plucked and took a nibble of a new shoot.

Not bad, I thought.  Bright, even.  Surprisingly not bitter like its fruit.

And hairy.

Last year I grew them on trellis netting.  Smart people grow them on wires so they can unhinge them from the top and allow the fruit to dry.  This year, I will be a smart hops farmer.

Sure enough, they’re edible, and sure enough, some previous group of hungry gardeners, Europeans mostly, have figured this out…indeed, there’s a market season for the green ones in Italy (bruscandoli), and the Belgians blanch and even pickle them (jets de houblon).  So to tame their sprawl and fill my maw, I brought some in to the kitchen.

Like asparagus, they’re best fresh.  I have seen plenty of recipes for risotto con bruscandoli,  which sounded fine…but risotto’s a dish I make annually with the first big harvest of asparagus so I didn’t wish to upstage that primary vegetable.  I blanched them in a bit of water to knock the hairs off, then sautéed them with young leeks, the first of the green garlic and some olive oil…and then tossed the lot into a waiting dish of hot fresh egg-y pasta, spring herbs and about a teacup’s worth of new ricotta. A dash of chive blossom vinegar and a bit more butter, salt, and pepper…toss…mmm.

A fine quick spring repast.  Shared with a chilled glass of white wine and a large salad, this meal might just be repeated…next year.

Actually, I did repeat an eat:  the next night I braised some with asparagus and green garlic.  We had company for dinner and it was a hit.

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11 responses to “On hops “asparagus”

  1. El, I bought hops plants last year… they’re still sitting in their pots off the porch. Luckily it was a mild year. Now I have to find a place to plant them where I can put a trellis or a screen. I thought they climbed when I bought them. But no.
    I remember reading about them long ago — maybe in Honey from a Weed? Or Elizabeth David? I’m off to investigate.
    What will you do with the hops?

  2. Yes! Page 106 in David’s An Omelette and a Glass of Wine. Everything you could possibly want to know about the delicious hop shoot or wild asparagus. Hmm.

    • That’s one Eliz. David book I *don’t* have, and you’ve got me remembering too how much I enjoyed my library copy of Honey from a Weed. (Dang. Just when I thought i didn’t need any more cookbooks…in fact, I have been on a purge. But anything from David classifies as literature in my eyes so I make an exception.)

      Hops are quite beautiful plants. Do you have a table or seating area to screen? You might now that your trees are history. I think actually I should re-home mine to a space outside the garden as their spread and shade are fairly wicked (if you’re a low-growing plant that is). So I have been harvesting and drying some hops and giving them away to brewer friends. I haven’t attempted the brewing myself…but I get beer as payback, so no complaints there.

  3. Hey El – Glad to see the hops are doing well for you! Another idea for your readers is using a flag pole to grow your hops on (if they have one, and aren’t currently using it!!). I make something like a tee pee with my flag pole, and it allows me to grow 6 varieties of hops on it relatively easily.

  4. Never knew Hops shoots were edible but it makes sense.I grew some several years ago just because they grow so fast.I always wonder about who the first folks were to try different things.Like the first person who thought I could eat that snail or whoever thought I could make Liqueur out of these Artichokes.

  5. Ha, I read this and thought “yet another cool thing that I probably won’t eat”. I think my problem with spring foraging is that I have so much else to eat at the moment, and so much to do… But hops? I just think of the stingy-ness when I brush against it when mowing, and can’t imagine swallowing it!

    Also–did I mention D has taken up brewing? Good times 🙂

  6. Sharon, you rock. 🙂

    Thanks for them all, Andy! And a flagpole is an excellent idea as a trellis for them. None here though… Have you tried eating the shoots too? You probably have quite a few….

    John, do spill about the artichoke liqueur. Because our winter was so mild I have a feeling mine will have a good crop this spring/summer…not that I will ever truly have a surplus of them, but it’s nice to think about!

    Sara, lucky you. Yeah, we’re kind of full up on the food front too but just 2 harvests of these things were fine. I like variety back in the diet again and spring shoots really fill a void. Time to do something with them is also kind of hard-bought…

  7. Well I googled how to make artichoke liqueur and on page 2 of the links the second one is Erics rants and recipes and it looks pretty good.There is a middle ages link using red wine to make it but the commercial one Cynar is sort of a rust brown in color and made with various herbs and plants Artichoke being the main one.I’ve only had it straight and Cynar has a nice little heat burn at the end.

  8. This is all very cool. I have a flag pole not in use, so maybe it will become a hops pole. Hops grow wild in our area, so perhaps I can forage a few shoots in the meantime. I have “An Omelette and a Glass of Wine,” but don’t recall the hops part–must have read it before my foraging prime. I’ll look into it again.

    Brett

  9. I had some questions on growing hops asparagus in south eastern michigan. If you could contact me at my email Kirishthor@yahoo.com I will pick your herbal brain 🙂

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