Sunday, September 4, 2011

Hops harvest

You probably noticed in the last hops post that I'm cautiously plodding through my first try at growing this crop.  Harvest has been proceeding just as tentatively as every other part of this experience.

I'm drying the cones in a very simple-technology manner by spreading them on a window screen that has been stapled to a crude wooden frame.  That rack is a few feet off the floor in the upper level of our barn, an area that is typically warmer than outside, especially on hot, sunny days like the ones we've had lately.  The picture above shows the first small batch of Cascade cones freshly picked and slightly dry off the bine.

So far the cones have dried to a very dry and papery state in three days or less.  The image above shows the second batch just before I moved them off the drying screen for bagging.  Even though we've got plenty of Cascade cones to harvest, they are so lightweight that a full gallon weighs well under a pound.  I'll have to get the scale out some day soon and make an official weighing.

In an attempt to keep the lupulin fresh until it's time to use it, the cones are placed in Ziploc bags with the excess air squeezed out, and stored in the freezer.  My expectations for the harvest have changed dramatically since the cones first began appearing in July.  There are MANY more cones than I anticipated, and plenty in various stages of ripeness still on the bine.  Unless something unforeseen happens to them, the two Cascade bines should produce several gallons of cones.

The Willamette bines, on the other hand, appear to be finished after producing less than a quart between all four bines.  Perhaps with a bit of loving care on the rhizomes this fall and next spring, we may see better results next year.  As it is, I'm plenty busy with the two Cascade bines, and would probably be overwhelmed if the Willamette were as productive.  Feel free to stop by if you'd like to see the plants and process first-hand: tours are easy to schedule, and if you're good, I may even give you the opportunity to harvest a few hundred cones.

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