Growing Hops

Spring has sprung here in the great midwest and Infamous did a little gardening today. My activities involved a new plant for my garden. I am going to try growing Hops. Hops is the bitter stuff they use to flavor beer. It is winter hardy here and although an unusual plant, it is grown by some hobbyists.

My shipment arrived in a plastic bag in bareroot form. They looked like fat cigars covered with bark. I had a great deal of trouble locating a source for them but I am quite pleased with the plants I received. I ourchased from Freshops located in Philomath, Oregon. Their phone number is (800)460-6925. They had a long list of varieties with various characteristics explained. If you know what you are doing, you can select just the right flavor for your home brew. Since I am a mere dabbler in brewing, I was more interested in the appearance, disease resistance and growth characteristics than flavor. I selected three varieties, Brewers’ Gold, Cascade, and Williamette.

The plants arrived just barely starting to bud out. I got good sized big chunks of root rhizomes and they have to grow their own roots. I started the plants in turkey roaster trays made of aluminum. I have to transplant them later to their ultimate growing spot but I do not have that ready yet.

Since roots grow based on signals from auxin, I did not remove any buds that were peeking out. The growing point of the bud is a rich source of auxin and removing them would have decreased the “let’s grow roots” signal in the plants. By the time they are transplanted to their permanent locale I hope to have a good deal of root growth starting.

Hops are a perennial vine that grow very fast and vigorously each season. The tops apparently die to the ground each year and start afresh each spring. I plan to grow them up a wooden trellis but any support can be used. They are heavy feeders and are best grown with lots of sun, water and fertilizer.

From my reading, the worst problem with them is downy mildew. It can really decrease growth of the plants and make the new shoots die back. I will wait to see if my environment has this problem. It may be more prevalent in the Pacific Northwest.

The other problems that may occur are minor fungal problems, aphids and mites.

The source of the hops for brewing is in the female flowers at the tips of the vines. The flowers are dioecious which means there are male and female plants. Only the female plants produce the flowers which have the flavoring used in brewing. Usually only female plants are grown since the males are needed to make seed not flowers.

Flowers are small 1/4 inch sized and consist of a flower cone. At first the stylets (pistils) of the cone stick out waiting to be pollinated. The styles dry off as they mature and the small petals appear. After the flower is done doing its thing, it dries and becomes papery masses of flowers. These dry masses can be harvested and dried in a food dehydrater. The hops can then be stored and used for your brewing pleasure.

One last interesting trivia bit about hops. Dogs are very sensitive to true hops. If they ingest it they can get a condition called malignant hyperthemia. They can die from overheating! Keep your hops away from your pooches.


A Citrus Library

Infamous just visited the Florida Citrus Arboretum located in Winter Haven, Florida. Here is a picture of citrus we saw there.

An actual citrus type called Buddha's Hand

This plantation is maintained by the Florida Department of Agriculture. It is a repository of all the important types of citrus that were bred into our present day commercial varieties. Botanists keep such collections to have the DNA of plants that are vanishing in the wild. These trees were the Grandparents of our current types and they may contain genetic variation that would be helpful to reintroduce characteristics such as disease resistance and cold hardiness.

Citrus comes in a wide variety

It was interesting to see the colors, tree habits, fruit size and other strange things. The colors ranged from green to yellow to orange. Some trees were thorny and some had slim willow-shaped leaves. The fruit skins were variable from thick and wrinkly to smooth and thin skinned. The most amazing thing was the size variation. Some Kumquats were no bigger than a dime up to the Chinese Pummelo with was about 8 inches in diameter.

Small citrus with willow shaped leaves.

Pear shaped citrus

These rough skinned fruits are lemons

A Kumquat,

    Fortunella crassifolia

What did they all have in common? They all formed an edible fruit consisting of a terrible tasting skin covering compressed sections of fruit holding the seeds.

And now a tiny little botany lesson. Do you know what a hesperidium is? It is the fruit of a citrus. It is the special name botanists use for the type of berry produced by the citrus. Botanically, berries are a bunch of seeds surrounded by fleshy (sometimes tasty) plant meat. Then a skin is covering the berry. In the hesperidium, each section is that berry. So in other words, in an orange, all the orange sections are each a berry, botanically, and each berry is squished together with his brothers and they are all covered by a peel. So when you peel an orange, you reveal about 8-9 berries all lined up inside and each of them holding seeds. The whole unit that we call an orange is the hesperidium.

If you are interested in an unusual stop while in Florida, I would recommend the Budwood collection. It is not a tourist attraction and there is no one to guide you around. It is just a fenced in collection of citrus guarded by a receptionist. She charges you $8.00 per bag for picking your own collection in the plantation. You have to go through a shoe wash solution and be sprayed off with a mist of soapwater to reduce the transfer of citrus insects and diseases to their collection. There is a little map and all the trees are well marked. The best time to collect ripe citrus is early February. You can call them at (863) 298-7712 and get details. Our car navigation system got us there with no problem; the address is 3027 Lake Alfred Rd. (US 17), Winter Haven, FL 33881. They are open to the public Monday through Friday 9:00 to 4:00 for visitors.

Giant Thing Alert

An alert reader informed me of the existence of a Giant Thing a while ago. I was driving down a highway in Florida at the time. She told me to be on the lookout for the exit with the 13 foot alligator at it. Not knowing if she meant a statue or a live one or what, I had to pull off to see it. Here is what I saw.

13 foot long 'gator in a souvenir shop

Since I take my responsibility as one of the blogosphere’s most astute observers of Giant Things, I am reporting this to you here. I must admit that this is technically not a Giant Thing, just a very large natural sized one of its kind. Never one to quibble with definitions, I submit this item under the category of Giant Things. Enjoy the majesty.

Other disturbing paraphernalia.