Photo by Melody

Hops are not just for beer. They make great ornamentals in the Home Garden!

By Darius Van d'Rhys (dariusMarch 12, 2008

Hops are primarily grown and harvested for use in making beer although historically they have been used as a medicinal herb, a spring vegetable and in many crafts. They are a very attractive vine in the home garden and an easy plant for the novice gardener.

Gardening picture

Hops, Humulus lupulus, and Golden Hops, Humulus lupulus 'Aureus' grow to a height of 12 to 15 feet in full sun to partial shade. They bloom in mid-summer in various shades of green, chartreuse and sometimes cream/tan. The vine can be easily cut back and will die down in winter but come back every year from the roots. The plant is vigorous, easily vining over a trellis, but is not invasive like mint. If grown on pasture fences, livestock tend to leave it alone due to some spines on the stems.
The rhizomes of the female hop plant produce the flowers. The rhizomes look like root cuttings but are actually stems and have buds growing from them. The buds will become new vines. Male plants are not as attractive and are not necessary to get flowers. Plants may be propagated from seed but require a period of dormancy to germinate. They are easily propagated from root cuttings or dividing the root ball.Image

Medicinal and Food Uses

Extracts and oils are used as flavorings in beverages, frozen desserts and other sweets like baked goods, candy and puddings. Extracts are used in lotions and creams and said to have skin-softening properties. “Modern research shows hop extracts relax smooth muscles, and is useful in combination with other herbs in the treatment of disorders such as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Crohn’s disease and nervous stomach. The pollen from the strobiles can cause contact dermatitis in sensitive people. [1]

Hops tea was a widely used sedative, digestive aid and an appetite stimulus. A heated poultice of leaves has been used for an earache, and modern herbalists make a pillow of warm hops. (See recipe below.) The stems were woven into baskets and also used to make a durable cloth and paper. Dried leaves and flower heads were boiled to make a brown dye.

“Hops contain two chemicals (humulone and lupulone) that can kill bacteria that cause spoiling. One study shows hops effective against tuberculosis bacteria, leading some credence to one of its traditional Chinese uses.” [2]

The young shoots of hops are eaten like asparagus and the young leaves blanched to remove bitterness and added to soups. Hops steeped in sherry are said to make a fine cordial for the stomach. I have heard you can add hops to sausages but haven’t found a recipe.


Gooseberries in Imitation of Hops

Preserved in syrup, these delightful counterfeit hop flowers are made from gooseberries, one of the most traditional English soft fruits of summer. Dating from the early Georgian period, the first printed recipe is found in Elizabeth Smith's The Compleat Housewife (London: 1727). Smith (rather dangerously) impaled her split gooseberries on thorns. Later writers like Mary Smith, Frederick Nutt and William Henderson wisely threaded them on cord with a needle, avoiding the possibility of dinner guests getting a thorn caught in their throats. [3]

Thanks to Equilibrium, Victorgardener, Bert, and Arsenic for the use of their hops photos from PlantFiles. (,


Relaxing, Sleep Pillow

4 cups Hop flowers
2 cups Bergamont
15 drops Lavender oil
2 cups Rose petals
5 ml Passion flower tincture

Mix the herbs, oils and tincture together in a bowl. Put into a cotton bag and use it as a pillow to help one relax and sleep. The Hops may be used by themselves, however they do have a strong hoppy odour. By adding alcohol to the hops, the volatile oils are more easily released. [1]

  About Darius Van d'Rhys  
Darius Van d'RhysI have a 'growing my own food' obsession that comes from my overlapping interests in cooking, nutrition and gardening. I am also a "teacher", a writer, a builder… and a craftsperson and... and… and many other things, LOL. In fact, I guess I am a generalist, and a Seeker. I live in the southern Appalachian Mountains on a hillside with a creek in front, and drive a 15 year old truck I lovingly call “My Farmer’s Ferrari.” Editor's note: Darius passed away on March 19, 2014. Her readers will miss her greatly and we are thankful for her legacy of wonderful articles.

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