Wild hops are fierce, intriguing and beautiful plants that grow wild in the land of Alberta, amongst other places in the world. Hops are the cone shaped buds on the plant, which are actually the dried flower. Hops are very vigorous growers and can reach a few inches a day. They often grow along fences, abandoned areas and use other plants to anchor themselves to reach towards the sun. Hops look like a vine, but are correctly known as a bine because they use their strong stems and prickly hairs to help them ascent, whereas vines have suction cups and tendrils to support themselves. Hops always grow clockwise towards the sky in their pursuit of sunlight.
Hops are related to Cannabis and a similar comparison to these two plants is that both have fertile flowers on the female plants, leaving the male plants useless for production. When growing a hop plant from seed there is a 50/50 chance for each gender. For this reason, hops are strictly grown from existing plants or rhizomes, cancelling out the seed sprouting process.
To make hop growing even more particular, hops are categorized in two types: some plants can be alpha and others are aromega. This means the alpha plants have higher percentages of alpha acid and provide the taste of bitterness in beer, while the aroma varietals are higher in essential oils which provide the floral flavours and aroma characteristics to the brew.
Fun fact: (which isn’t so fun) Hops can spontaneously combust. Yep, you read that right! Hops can just burst into flames under the right circumstances. The immense pressure created by the weight of hop bales and super high levels of alpha acids in some varieties can make for a serious fire hazard. Crazy huh!?!
On the flip side of things; hops can be very soothing and have historically been used to stuff pillows because of the fluffy texture and their calming effect. Additionally, hops can be used for a variety of aliments such as; swelling, preventing infections and insomnia.
However, it is not recommended that humans ingest hops in forms other than beer, it can cause nausea, upset stomach and headaches (News Flash! Beer can give you these too!)
So if this post made your mouth water and crave a cold brew, in your neighbourhood. Just be sure to keep your pup away, because the plant is toxic to animals.