How Beer Gave Me A Green Thumb
By: Paul Camarca – Brew Chef
As a Chef, I’ve always liked the idea of growing my own fruits, vegetables, and herbs…but I never seemed to have any luck with it. I mean, I could kill MINT, and that’s like a weed!!!!
So, three years ago I said, “Hey, if I can make beer at home, why not also grow some hops?”
I ordered 4 different rhizomes on the internet – easy enough. Once they arrived, I planted two rhizomes at my house, in pots, and gave the other pair to a friend in PA.
I followed all the advice I could find!
I gave them southern exposure, lots of sun, and watered them morning & evening.
And, in a short time I had shoots poking through the dirt!!!! YES!
I let them climb wildly, all over the fence, for the entire season in order to establish a good root-base for the plants. The two rhizomes which I kept for myself are Cascades and Fuggles. That first year, they grew into very green, nice vines… but like all first-year hops, they produced only a few hop cones.
When the next growing season began, and the weather turned warmer, I waited to see some growth – and before I knew it, in early April the first chutes started poking through. Hey I did it! They did not die!!!
Around this same time, the members of Pour Standards were offered some mature plants, that a brewer had left behind when he moved away for business. I grabbed a few, since I had the opportunity.
I decided to get bigger pots for all of them, and they took-off strong, covering the entire side of my house. But sadly, not many cones for this second season, either.
But now I had 5 varieties! Cascade, Fuggles, Chinook, Centennial and Mt. Hood.
Fast forward to this year, when I decided to get serious and I built a large, raised, planter box in my back yard. Complete with a 16-foot high rope trellis.
I transferred the root balls into their permanent home, and each one was almost 2-feet around.
Now in my third season with these plants, and starting to get my bearings, I decided to only let 4 vines from each plant travel up the ropes, trimming everything else on what seemed to be on an almost daily basis.
By mid-May you could almost watch them grow, and by the end of June all the vines had made it to the top and started to form a lush canopy.
At mid-July I had cones developing!
Here we are at mid-August and I’ve already started to harvest. I will have enough this year to dry some, maybe yielding 6 to 8 ounces of dried hops. I’ll use the rest in a ‘wet hop’ brew.
Because of my success with the hop rhizomes, I also took a chance this season and planted tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in another section of my yard.
The plants are doing great and producing well.
All I can say is “WOW”… from a guy that couldn’t even get a Chia Pet to grow!!!!!