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Peak of the Season
April 07, 2011
SPRING: Hop ShootsPhoto from The Brew Lounge.
If grapes are merely just the early, munchable stage of wine, then perhaps the same may be said of hop shoots and beer.
The pencil-thin shoots of the hop plant are not only one of the earliest harbingers of spring, they're good to eat too. In fact, Belgians get more excited about the appearance of hop shoots then they do for the season's first asparagus.
But one has to be quick. The window of opportunity between the sprouts' debut near the roots of the parent plant, and when they move on to a tougher, more fibrous state, is brief. The apex seems to be around the time when they are less than 6 inches tall and still a very pale but vibrant green -- before the production of chlorophyll really gets underway. (In Europe they sometimes put little tents around the shoots to extend the time when they are still white and tender.)
Like many shoots, young hops have a delicate, sweet/earthy, garden bean-like flavour that is best brought out by steaming or a simple saute in butter. With a little Hollandaise sauce, they make a good side dish for pan-fried fish or eggs. Here's a recipe for "Steamed Lemon Sole with Hop Shoots and White Wine. Like beans and asparagus, they also make a good pickled item.
If you're not growing hops in your own backyard, farmer Jordan Study will have some in a week or two at his North Arm Farm in Pemberton, and he can make them available to local chefs during his weekly produce deliveries to Vancouver. Supply is very limited so its first come, first serve. Just give him a call at 604-894-5379 or email email@example.com.