Herb of the Year

Hops,  Humulus lupulus, are used primarily as a flavoring and stability agent in beer. They impart a bitter taste to beer, while malt imparts sweetness. The plant is a vigorous, climbing, herbaceous perennial, usually trained to grow up strings in a field called a Hopfield, a hop garden, or hop yard. There are many different varieties grown around the world, with different types being used for particular styles of beer. They need a moist temperate climate, with much of the world’s production occurring near the 48th parallel north. They prefer the same soils as potatoes. Hop cultivation began in the US in 1629 by English and Dutch farmers. Cultivation was mainly centered around New York, California, Oregon, and Washington. Problems with powdery mildew and downy mildew devastated New York’s production by the 1920’s and California only produces hops on a small scale. Because of the increase in beer production and small craft beers, there is a worldwide shortage of hops. Prices have doubled in the last 10 years. Important production centers are the Hallertau in Germany (central Bavaria), the Yakima (Washington) and Willamette (Oregon) valleys, and western Canyon County, Idaho.


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