They look inconspicuous and are among the most expensive vegetables in the world. Why is that? Hop shoots only have a relatively short season, which extends from mid-March to mid-April. The fresh shoots from the hop plant are thus not only culinary heralds of spring, but also the first fresh vegetable of the season.
Harvesting is time-consuming and requires a lot of tact on the part of the picker. While the hop bines grow quickly and are visible to all, the shoots hide under the ground in the dark. Before they reach daylight, the hop farmers carefully loosen the soil with a small hoe. To help the hops grow more vigorously, the excess root shoots are removed except for three main shoots. The farmers gently take the young shoots between thumb and forefinger and break them off the rootstock. To harvest a kilo, a skilled picker needs one to two hours, depending on the weather and the condition of the soil.
The nutty-tasting spring treasures have had a steep career. In the past, they were used in the preparation of simple dishes and were almost forgotten. Today they are a much sought-after, expensive speciality and are appreciated as crunchy multi-talents. They can be served raw as a salad, as a creamy soup or as a vegetable side dish with meat or fish. And the hop plant is also healthy. The ingredient lupulin has a relaxing effect, xanthohumol protects the cells.
A real dream destination for lovers of the vegetable is in Poperinge, a traditional hop region in Belgium.
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