Thursday, May 14, 2015

Risotto 2 - Hop shoots 0

Time has again arrived to thin out the hops so that only the strongest shoots are left to climb. Last year I only felt that this was necessary with the Columbus as the growth of the Cascade and Willamette was not that prodigious. This year we have something of a contrast, the Willamette has not appeared at all yet and the Cascade is out growing the Columbus.

Previously, I talked about using a different system for training the growing hops. They have since done a very good job of ignoring it. Here's the Columbus:

You can probably see some bines trying to climb up the bamboo directly rather than sticking to the twine. Admittedly, this is what they prefer to do. Here's the Cascade clearly trying to sneak straight up:

Both are clearly in need of thinning out. Last year I had three lines of twine per plant with three bines on each. As a consequence I'm hoping to be able to grow nine bines up my helical arrangement. After deciding on the strongest nine looking the rest were cut off at ground level leaving the Columbus looking like this:

And the Cascade:

And a quantity of shoots and leaves:

Like last year, the plan was to make a hop shoot risotto. I was hoping that this year there would be stronger growth as the plants are in their second year. Certainly the initial growth as been very encouraging. The amount that I pruned this year (pictured above) is more than I would look to put in a risotto, especially as there are a lot of leaves. As a consequence I removed the tips from the rest of the bines:

To give this pile:

This was further thinned out by removing any leaves. The tips of the shoots were taken off to act as a garnish for the final product:

With the rest being included with the rice, shallots, garlic and white wine:

To give a very tasty dish that had almost no flavour of hop shoots:

Even when eaten raw, the tips had almost no flavour. The flavour wasn't unpleasant just absent. As this was the second year of disappointment I decided to do some research / investigation. Fortunately, Geoff at The Hopyard very kindly responded to my questions. It seems that part of the problem may be that I need to cut shoots for the risotto a lot earlier. If you look here you can certainly see that what they are offering are shoots that a lot closer to the ground than mine were. It's also possible that my plants are still a bit young still, being only in their second year. Perhaps next year they'll give me stronger initial growth. If you look at the pictures of my early shoots, they clearly have the same purplish colour to them as Geoff's do, I just need more of them. Hopefully next year will provide more shoots and if I cut them earlier we might just end up with the intended dish. In the meantime, Geoff tells me that the majority of their crop of shoots went to Liquid Riot in Portland, Earth in Kennebunk and a distributor in Pennsylvania. If you're anywhere near those please do give them a try and report back on any hop shoot recipes.

I will continue to persevere with risotto experiments if for no other reason than the final dish is still tasty and it's better than just throwing the thinned out bines on the compost heap. Something to look forward to for next year.

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