I have decided to harvest the cones I have so far. Partly because I am concerned that the plants may not appreciate being transplanted from one place to another (and this might affect the cones) but also because they seemed to fit this description of readiness. Certainly the lupulin was quite obvious as yellow grains inside the cone and also had quite a strong smell of hops when pressed.
While picking I noticed some more of the fronds that I had mentioned before:
This would appear to suggest that these fronds may go on to become more cones. If this is true (and the plants happily survive being moved) then I may get a second harvest (I can always dream). This is all new to me as I saw none of this last year in Houston. I should also point out that I only saw these on the Columbus. It's difficult to know whether this is because it is a different strain to the other two or because it was just more successful at growing in my garden. I have my fingers crossed for a second harvest though. Speaking of harvest:
The larger bowl contains my haul from the Columbus, the smaller bowl from the Cascade and the three at the front represent all I found on the Willamette. Quite a contrast to last year when the Willamette was my strongest grower. They have all been put into storage bags and put in the freezer:
It seems that the standard recommendation is to dry hops prior to freezing. I am forgoing this, partly because it sounds like too much work, but also because I have no plans to transport them or even keep them for very long. The next time they leave the freezer will be so that they can be unceremoniously dumped into boiling wort. My intention with this blog has always been that it would not become a brewing blog (as there are more than enough of those out there and probably far superior to what I could muster). Having said that, I'm thinking I should make an exception for my first brew made with my own hops, just so I can trace the whole process from putting a rhizome in a raised bed to brewing the beer. I may even post about how the beer turns out in the end.
Harvesting cones also serves as a way of giving your hops a good inspection. All three plants looked to be in great overall health despite some obvious signs being eaten by bugs. I also found this:
These look a lot like insect eggs of some sort, very neatly arranged on a leaf. I'm not enough of an entomologist to know what these are but they were removed and left far from my hops.
All told I'm pretty happy with my harvest from these first year hop growths. Hopefully next year will bring even greater hop bounty. This will depend a great deal on how well the transplant goes. More on that next time.