Monday, May 12, 2014

Thinning & hop shoot risotto

Standard advice for growing hops suggests pruning back excess growth so that the plants can concentrate their energy into growing their most successful shoots. I have decided that only the Columbus is in need of pruning as the other two still need to establish themselves more. Here's the Willamette:

And the Cascade:

Both of these plants could certainly do with filling out. The Columbus on the other hand is much thicker at this point:

It has even been trying to escape. Here it is throttling a nearby daffodil:

From the pruning advice above, I have settled on nine shoots overall (three per line of twine). Once I'd identified these nine shoots I cut everything else back to the rhizome. Here is the slimmed down result:

That gave me a quantity of hop shoots:

As mentioned earlier my plan had been to use them to try making a hop shoot risotto. The shoots on their own are not unpleasant just a little bland. This unfortunately proved to be true once they were included in the risotto, which was eventually reverted back to having more flavour by adding mushrooms. Some of my own homebrew was used instead of wine though, which definitely enhanced the flavour :) There was no hop shoot flavour perceivable in the finished product, which was nevertheless pretty tasty.

Not entirely sure why this wasn't more successful. Perhaps I just didn't have enough in terms of shoots, perhaps I pruned too late in the season. There are many possible reasons. Unfortunately, this is a dish I can only try making once a year. According to the page on which I found the recipe this is a Venetian delicacy. I don't really think of the Italians growing hops so it's also possible that the varieties they use for this risotto are quite different to those used for making beer. Hopefully I will be able to try again next year with an even greater quantity of pruned hops. I may also try pruning a little earlier in the year. There's also the possibility that the Cascade and Willamette will be thick enough to need pruning and thus contribute to the harvesting of shoots. Many possibilities to try, just a very long time between experiments.

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