Have you tried eating hop shoots before? Maybe you should! It turns out that hop shoots are the most expensive vegetable in the world– and I have them growing wild in my back yard! To tell the truth, the wild hops in my yard are a real nuisance– they grow all over the shrubs back there, and don’t even produce very good hops for brewing with. But the shoots? Well, they are good to eat.According to my favorite foraging book, the shoots can be picked from mid-March to no later than May. So, now is the time!
I picked them for the first time this year, admittedly a bit skeptical. Mine are wild and not plump like the ones they hold festivals for in Belgium. Also, they were kind of prickly. But why not try them? People say that they are a good substitute for asparagus, which I love. I chopped up a few and cooked them in butter, an sprinkled with salt. Delicious! And indeed, very asparagus-like.
I couldn’t gather enough for a full side dish at dinner, so instead I added them to a foraged frittata last week. I sauteed wild onions in butter, then added the hops shoots, garlic mustard greens, and dandelions. The results were great!Do you have hops growing in your yard somewhere? Now is the time to pick the shoots– when they are just a few inches long, and tender. You can chop them and add them to your dishes in the same way you might use asparagus or another green vegetable.
You can also cook them more delicately by steaming them, then drizzling with a little olive oil and some freshly chopped chives.
Recipes for Eating Hop Shoots
(I hope to add more to this list as I find them!)
The bines (not a typo– they are technically not vines) are great for covering up unsightly walls, as they grow quickly and have such lush leaves and are very pretty. They look a bit like grape vines. I have picked hops cones (the flowers) before and dried them to make teas– they have a calming, sedative effect.
I know of one cookbook right now that actually talks about eating hop shoots and gives instructions for preparing them– Jan Grigson’s Vegetable Book.Have you tried eating hop shoots? If not, have I talked you into trying them?
Common Sense Caution: Don’t go around eating plants you are not familiar with. Do some research first to make sure you know what it is. Google image search is your friend! I have a good collection of foraging books to help me spot edibles and avoid toxic plants. Here are a few I recommend: Food for Free, Foraging and Feasting, Thrifty Forager, The Forager’s Harvest. Also note that some people are allergic to hops.
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