Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The First Harvest and a Recap

Over the course of three weekends, we managed to pick by hand our entire 2009 hop crop with relative ease. Beginning September 5th, we had 5 sets of eager hands picking only the most ripe hops from among our ten varieties. As this was our first harvest, there was much discussion on what a 'ripe' hop cone actually was. The books describe a ripe cone as dry and papery to the touch, light/pale green in colour, and rebounding quickly after compressing the cone. These were all helpful hints but found that the 'dry, papery feel' of the hop was the best indicator for ripeness.

Initially picking into large freezer bags, we noticed condensation on the inside of the bags indicating that the freshly-picked hops were actively releasing moisture and decided to pick into more breathable burlap bags to keep the hops breathing freely.

The first harvest day was bittersweet (the bad sort of bitter) in that 3 of our varieties (Cascade, Mt. Hood, and Willamette) were hit hard following a failure in the irrigation lines. A faulty plug at the end of the line was forced out and overlooked for almost 2 weeks, starving about 300 potted hop plants a single drink of water during one of the hottest periods of the summer. The dried, dead bines were a dreadful sight considering these varieties looked like they were going to produce one hell of a crop just a few weeks earlier. Forced to see the glass as half-full, our other high-alpha varieties flowered a very healthy crop. Chinook, Galena, and Magnum all produced well over one pound of dried product.

All told, almost 10 pounds of dried hop cones resulted from the harvest. A seemingly small amount given the number of plants (750) but when considering their humble beginnings from small rhizome cuttings, we think this has been a resounding success!

Thanks to Tim, Ash, Heather, Kelly, and Sean for helping out with this year's harvest!

Unfortunately, the Bitterbine Blog was sorely neglected over the course of the summer, so I plan to post some retrospective blogs to cover the months of June, July, and August - three very busy months worth documenting. More to come!

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