Hops To the Rescue!
Understandably most people think only of beer upon hearing the word “hops”. However, these lovely green pods and stems can also be boiled in teas and cooked in recipes. These alternative uses not withstanding, the word hops continues to bring to mind the rich refreshing flavor of beer.
The original hops were wild plants used in salads as far back as the first century AD and originated in Egypt. The cultivation of hops began in the 15th century in England. The golden age of the hop industry was the 19th century.
Beer has passed the test of time for centuries but lately the spotlight has been on India Pale Ale or IPA. All discerning beer drinkers seem to have acquired a special fondness for this beer. The secret – hops.
Discovery of Hops for Beer
It all began back in the days of British occupied India when soldiers by the thousands were forced to live aboard thousand ton ships during the six month journey to India.
Hellishly hot and lacking in fresh air, the holds of the vessels held the rations and kegs of beer. The easy days of ice cold gin and tonics and lawn chairs were a distant memory. Now, the men, sick with scurvy, were forced to drink warm, stale, often spoiled, dark and heavy beer. So, by the time it arrived in India, whatever of the foul tasting brew remained, was often not fit for consumption.
Then hops arrived on the scene. One of the few brewers and suppliers experimented with a strong, pale beer called barleywine or October beer. Brewed rich and aged for years in order to mellow, they utilized freshly picked hops which also served to keep the taste fresh.
Often a batch was brewed to honor a first son’s birth and was tapped upon his eighteenth birthday. Thus, it was discovered that this beer would withstand the passage to India. The army eagerly anticipated the first shipment and it was well worth the wait. Pale, bright, strong, and delicious. As an added bonus, it contained an antibiotic which was more than a match for scurvy.
Now hops became the magic ingredient, first in Britain and India, then on to America and the rest of the beer discerning population around the world. Brewers used hops for several reasons, to provide a less sweet malt taste, to impart more distinct flavors, and for lasting quality.
The Elite of Beers
Subsequently, India Pale Ales became the “elite of beers”. One connoisseur described one particular variety as “fresh and flowery, finishing with just a touch of sweetness, like a dusting of toasted coconut. Quenching and bright, a taste of spring in the dead of winter, a glimpse of the south Asian sun”.
Hops only grow in certain areas, that being between the 35th and 55th parallels of both hemispheres. The major hop growing regions are located between these parallels in the US, Belgium, Germany, and New Zealand. They go into a dormant phase in winter. Trellises are necessary for growing hops as they are climbers, growing as high as eighteen feet. Mistakenly called vines as per their characteristics, they are technically bines, called thus due to their tendency to grow clockwise around their trellis as they follow the sun and, using the shoots alone, as opposed to vines’ tendrils or suckers. Assisting the bines to grip the support, nature has provided them with downward pointing bristles on the shoots.
Originally, hops were laboriously picked by hand but hop picking machines were first developed in 1922. All the plants in a specific cultivar or variety come from one original plant. Hop growers take cuttings from a plant and cultivate them, thereby reproducing the characteristics and flavors perfectly. Male hop plants are invaluable parts of hop breeding programs and are mated with female plants in a controlled environment in order to create and test new varieties. However, the rows and rows of hops growing in their fields are all female plants. This way there will be no genetic drift.
Hops Are Edible
During the early 20th century hop production was primarily in upstate New York but when an epidemic of mildew was discovered production drifted to the Pacific Northwest which was more conducive to healthy plants. Currently 97.8% of the hops grown in the US are in this area. In fact, Eastern Washington is the hops capital of the world.
While hops are well known for adding bitterness, aroma, and flavor to beer, they add a unique taste to other beverages and foods and have other extraordinary uses.
Hops For Anxiety and Stress Relief – Hops For Insomnia
Are hops good for natural relief of anxiety and stress?
The answer is yes. And you can also take hops in tea, capsules or other forms for insomnia and general brain health. Here is a list of things hops are good for:
– relief for anxiety and insomnia through hops in soaps, lotions, and teas.
– soft hop yeast for breads and other baked goods.
– infused into salad dressings and sauces.
– hops flowers sprinkled in stews and other savory dishes.
– cooked as a vegetable not unlike asparagus.
– floral decorations in the home or outdoors
– added to garden walls or fences for attractive coverage.
Being very bitter, it is necessary to add sweet or savory ingredients to offset this. For example honey and lemon is often added to the tea. As well, garlic and butter improve the taste of the asparagus-like vegetable.
How fascinating that a simple plant growing in the wild hundreds of years ago has become so popular and so versatile in this day and age.
For more information about anxiety and natural remedies for anxiety, insomnia and depression,
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