After creating enormous buzz across the globe, the most coveted and expensive vegetable has made its way to India, holding the hands of a farmer in Bihar. Do you know which vegetable is being talked about here? Well! Probably, you have guessed the name by now. Yes, it's hop shoots vegetables.
So, what are these plants? Why are they so expensive? Most importantly, how can you grow hop shoots vegetables? Are you looking for the answers to these questions? Bang on! You have cracked the right code. This blog will take you through the nitty-gritty of hop cultivation in India. Read on!
What are hops?
The scientific name of this plant is Humulus lupulus. It is a flowering plant species that belongs to the Cannabaceae or hemp family. It is native to North America, Europe, and Western Asia. The perennial climber has a lifespan of 20 years and attains a height of around 6 meters. Although native to Europe and America, it has already debuted in India.
The plants were discovered sometime around the early phase of the 11th century. These were deemed as weeds before the world cracked their medicinal properties.
How much do they cost?
Dear reader! Hold your breath. Hop shoots vegetables sell for almost a whopping INR 1 Lakhs per kilogram, around €1,000 per kilogram. Can you imagine? Yes! Your hearing organ is doing a great job. Jokes apart! Arnesh Singh, an ambitious farmer from Bihar's Karamdih village, holds the helm for hop shoot cultivation in India. In 2021, he sold hop shoots vegetables for INR 85,000 per kilogram. Very expensive. Isn't it?
Don’t you think growing hops can change the farming game for Indian farmers altogether?
Why are they so expensive?
According to an article published in The Guardian, they take around three years to mature before harvest. Moreover, it is a labor-intensive and back-breaking crop. Why so? The tiny green tendrils of the plant grow willy-nilly, and the farmers need to crouch and find them. Therefore, a lot of labor is involved - one of the reasons behind the skyrocketing price of hop seeds.
Also, various studies talk about the therapeutic uses of hop shoot plants - another reason(s) behind their insanely high cost. Every part of this plant - the flower, fruit and stem - is useful. Let's take a look at the benefits of these shoots!
The bitter-tasting flowers, also known as strobile or hop cones, make a good stability agent for balancing the sweetness in the beer. The stalks of the hop shoot plant are used for manufacturing drugs to treat tuberculosis (TB).
As this climber is rich in antioxidants, in European countries, people use it as a herb to protect their skin in the cold. These also make a prominent ingredient in several antibiotics.
Hop shoots contain two types of hop acids - humulones and lupulones. These acids are believed to play a crucial role in cancer treatment. By blocking cancer (leukemia) cells, they resist them from causing bone damage.
This strange-looking yet beneficial vegetable also helps improve digestion. It also has analgesic properties. For people with anxiety, depression and insomnia, hops work as an incredible relaxing agent.
Hop shoots - How to grow them?
Let's start answering this million-dollar question with the soil for plants, water and light requirements:
Sunlight: These plants love plenty of light, at least six to eight hours per day. In that context, the South-facing part of your home or the one that receives the maximum sunlight makes the best spot.
Soil: Make sure that soil is well-aerated and well-drained. Hops thrive well in nutrient-rich soil. As far as soil pH is concerned, anything between 6.0 and 6.5 is good to go. You may need to add lime (if needed).
Water: In the first year of sowing, hops develop a small root system. It means you need to water it well while not leaving the soil unwatered for too long. One of the best ways to deter weeds and keep the moisture intact is - mulching. Avoid over-watering.
Steps of growing crops
Here are the steps for growing hop shoots:
The best season to plant them is between March and May, August and September.
Take the hops rhizomes and sow them about four inches deep. To facilitate drainage, make a heap of the soil - around one-foot height.
The flexible stems of hop grow vertically. So, to support them, you need to make a framework with heavy ropes and other similar items and tie it from the ground to the roof.
You can harvest the crop once the cones dry up and become papery. After plucking the cones, you need to dry them in a dry and cool place until they become brittle and flaky. The entire process may take a couple of weeks.
Post-harvesting, you need to prune the wines back to three feet. The plant will dry up during the winter season. And when the spring arrives, trim the roots with the help of a spade, fertilize the soil, tie a new trellis, and you are all set to start with a fresh crop.
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