The hop it is a climbing plant that in addition to the well-known commercial uses for the production of beer is also cultivated for ornamental purposes to embellish pergolas and gazebos.
Characteristics of the hops
The luppolo, Humulus lupulus, is a plant of the Cannabaceae family, widespread in the wild in many Italian regions, including the islands. It is easy to find it in the plains, along the hilly and mountain paths, along the banks of rivers or streams, on the edge of the forest and cultivated everywhere for commercial purposes for the production of beer.
Hops is a deciduous perennial plant (lasts about 25 years) with a very robust and deep rhizomatous root system composed of numerous very developed adventitious roots that help to anchor it firmly to the ground.
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The aerial part of the hops is formed by thin green and cylindrical climbing stems which, in the adult specimens, even exceed 10 meters in length. The stems, also known as vines, as they elongate, tend to wrap around themselves forming natural intertwining as happens for Araujia.
The leaves similar to those of the vinifera, they are heart-shaped, petiolate, opposite, and divided into 3-5 lobes with serrated margins. The upper page of intense green color is covered by a dense and short hair and is rough to the touch while the lower one is slightly lighter and if wrinkled it releases a waxy substance similar to the resin of conifers.
THE flowers gathered in particular pendulous panicle inflorescences, they are greenish-yellow and pleasantly scented. Since hops are dioecious, the female and male flowers are carried by plants with separate sexes and are easily recognized.
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In male plants the flowers appear at the apex of the branches gathered in smaller panicles and are composed of 5 tepals and 5 stamens.
In female plants the flowers or rather the cones appear two by two at the axil of bracts similar to small leaves which together form the characteristic cone-shaped inflorescence rich in resinous glands secreting lupine or lupine, a yellowish powdery substance with an aromatic flavor. amaragnolo which together with the other essential oils is responsible for the characteristic taste of beer.
THE fruits they are achenes of gray-green color located at the base of the inflorescences and are covered by bracts secreting a resinous substance of yellow color.
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The hops bloom in the summer between August and September depending on the climatic zones. Fertilization is anemophilic.
It is a plant that, in order to give abundant and copious flowering, needs bright and sunny places for many hours a day. It is resistant to cold winter temperatures down to -30 ° C. The dry climate compromises its flowering.
Hops prefer fertile soils, rich in organic matter and well worked with optimal pH values between 6 and 7.5.
It needs regular water supplies in spring, summer and especially in the early stages of growth or final planting.
Hops are fertilized in spring-summer with ternary fertilizers: rich in nitrogen (N) in spring; phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) in autumn and spring in varying doses. During the planting phase and every 5 years, a supply of mature manure is optimal for the vigor of the plants.
Multiplication of Hops
The plant propagates easily by means of basal suckers cuttings.
In spring, with suitable well sharpened and disinfected tools, cuttings of suckers bearing a portion of the rhizome provided with well developed roots are detached. The cuttings taken must be placed in a permanent home at the same time. In areas characterized by a more rigid climate and spring frosts are not completely averted, the rhizome cuttings can be rooted in single pots and only towards May can they be transplanted with all the bread that wraps the roots in the ground.
Hop plants are planted in spring in well-worked holes, about 30 cm deep and wide. The soil must be compacted well and kept moist until rooting or the appearance of new shoots. In a sixth of the plant, followed, the hop sprouts are accompanied on metal supports, usually two stems at each line, and two other “reserve” sprouts are left free on the ground.
Hop plants should be placed at a regular distance of about 80 cm on the rows and about 3 meters between the rows. The plants should then be watered every day for at least 2 weeks.
The plant should be pruned after each harvest by cutting off all bare branches at ground level. In the following spring the rhizome will throw out new shoots which, in a short time, will reach a length of 3-4 meters. The youngest plants after the first year of life should be pruned to 30 centimeters in height and tucked up with new fresh and fertile soil.
The collection of hop cones takes place in September and lasts about 20 days.
When the ripe cones appear papery, light green tending to yellow and dry to the touch, they detach from the branches with the whole peduncle which in the meantime will have taken on a beautiful bronzed color.
Conservation of hops
After harvesting, the hop cones are dried at a temperature of 50-60 degrees (also in the oven).
Once dried, the cones are then compressed in aluminum bags or glass jars and stored in a dark and cold place.
The release of the air by compression prevents the oxidation of the cones and the alteration of their organoleptic characteristics.
The compression must be done gently to avoid breaking the internal glands. Generally the inflorescences are marketed transformed into pellets.
Pests and diseases of hops
It is a plant sensitive to common animal parasites such as aphids and spider mites which sucking the sap of the leaves make them turn yellow or reddish and at the same time dry out the cones.
Among the fungal diseases he fears:
- root rot if the growing medium is not well drained;
- Rust of wheat, a sporogenous fungus that attacks the aerial part of the hops causing serious damage. The affected plants develop less, become stunted and in case of heavy infestation they can even die.
Cures and treatments
Hop plants grown in pots or in orchards need support to be able to climb. They do not tolerate weeds and therefore weeding and weeding will have to be done on a certain frequency periodically to keep the soil free.
To protect against parasites, phytosanitary treatments are carried out before 40-50 days from harvesting, in accordance with the provisions of current legislation. Alternatively, use antagonists such as ladybugs, insects greedy for these insects.
Hops are mainly used for commercial purposes in the production of beer for its aromatic but amaragnoli components. The bitter-aromatic taste and the clarification of the beer depend on the quality and quantity of hops which among other things prolongs its conservation as it also acts as a powerful antibacterial. The use of hops also helps to help hold the foam.
In kitchen the apical shoots or shoots of the cultivated and wild hop plant are used in the kitchen like asparagus for the preparation of omelettes, soups, risottos or simply salads or sautéed in a pan. The 20 cm long tender shoots of the plant are collected, boiled for 5-10 minutes and then consumed as desired. They are excellent, always boiled, even if only with oil, salt and lemon.
In phytotherapy herbal teas of hop cones are recommended to treat dyspepsia, states of tension, hyperexcitability, insomnia of nervous origin and also to stimulate appetite. Due to the phytoestrogen content, hops are also indicated to counter the onset of osteoporosis, alleviate menopause disorders and for the treatment of acne.
In pharmacology the extracts of the hop cones are used for the preparation of creams and ointments useful to relieve itching of various kinds.
Edibility and Poisonousness
If the apical shoots are collected for culinary use, it is well not to confuse those of hops with the flowering branches of other similar very toxic plants such as Ornithogalum or Chicken’s milk.
100 grams of hops provide only 15 calories.
The plant was already known and used in prehistoric times but its first cultivation began only during the 9th century AD in Germany. It was introduced in Italy for the first time in 1847 by Gaetano Pasqui of Forlì, the first agronomist to produce craft beer and who later also promoted it for commercial purposes by also establishing the first factory.
The apical shoots of the wild hop plant have a different name depending on the region: luventìn in Piedmont, aspargina in Lombardy, löertis in Brescia and Bergamo, urtis in Lodi, luartis in Mantua and Cremona, luperi in Umbria, viticedda in Cilento etc.
The name Latin scientific of hops, Humulus lupulus, comes from the word humus, which means moist, fertile earth and from Lupulus or Lupus which means wolf.