hop juice

Hop Juice?? As in Juicing Hops?!

My husband harvested the flowers from our hops plant yesterday, he uses them for his home brewed beers. He had set them out to dry on our kitchen table, and the wonderful floral aroma of those hops filled the entire kitchen. I was making juice that consisted mainly of cucumbers (we have a ton of those in our garden right now), and was trying to come up with an ingredient to spice up that juice and make it a little more interesting.

So when I was looking at those fresh hops next to me, it suddenly hit me: “Can you juice hops?!” I knew they are very bitter, but from tasting my husbands beers I also knew that they can add a very complex flavor and aroma. I did not hesitate and quickly pushed a few flower heads through my juicer and added the result to my juice, which at that point contained cucumber, galia melon, lemon, ginger, and basil.

I braced myself, tasted it, and was shocked: It tasted amazingly good! The flavor had an unexpected complexity, and the aroma of the juice was just lovely. It was akin to tasting beer or wine, the hops in combination with the ginger and basil gave the juice some really interesting nuances. And the cucumber juice worked great as a base, the same way it works for turmeric juice and other strong ingre. Cucumber has that capacity to absorb and buffer a strong flavor that would otherwise overpower the taste of the other ingredients.

I offered a glass to my husband, and he loved it too. Which isn’t too surprising being the beer lover that he is. He’s also into bitter flavors in general, and randomly munches on dandelion greens when we’re gardening together.

I did notice, however, that it would be very easy to use too much here. Use hops sparingly, a little bit goes a long way. Otherwise the juice can easily take on a “medicinal” taste. 🙂

But I’m totally hooked now and will experiment more. There are so many different varieties of hops, and juicing with hops is uncharted territory. I’ve tried other exotic juicing ingredients in the past, and most often the result is something like “errrr….okay, it’s drinkable I guess”. Not with hops. My hop juice tasted divine, and I’m in love with hops now.

So what are Hops anyhow?

hop Flowers

Hop Flowers

Most of us know hops only as one of the main ingredients of beer. The hop plant is a perennial climbing vine of the Cannabaceae family that also includes hemp and hackberries. Isn’t that amazing? Did you have any idea that hops is in the same family as cannabis? I had never heard this before, how cool is that?! We know hemp is a major healing plant.

Hop’s scientific name is Humulus lupulus. In the spring and early summer, the hop plant produces rapidly growing vines that wind around any support they can find in a clockwise direction, clinging to it with their strong, hooked hairs. The plants reach their final height of 15 to 25 feet by the end of June at which point they start producing sidearms which bear flowers.

The hop plant is dioecious, which means it’s a species with distinct male and female organisms. Only the female hop plant produces the green conelike flower heads that are used for brewing beer.

In the Northern hemisphere, the flowers are typically harvested throughout late August and early September. Ripe flowers start to fluff and contain a yellow resinous powder at the base of their petals that is called lupulin. This yellow powder is actually composed of small sacks of fragrant bitter oils and resins. So when we push hop flowers through the juicer, it’s really those oils and resins that give the extracted juice its distinct aroma and flavor.

Hop Vines on a Hop Farm

Hop Vines on a Hop Farm

The flowers don’t yield much juice by the way, and it’s best to use fresh hop flowers that have just been picked and haven’t been dried yet. We’re keeping our “juicing hops” in a tightly closed Ziploc bag in the freezer, with as little air as possible. The resins and oils spoil when exposed to heat and oxygen. Hops keep in the freezer for several months, but lose their potency over time.

Note: To juice hops you need to have a masticating juicer, a centrifugal one will not be able to extract much juice at all from these little flower heads. So if you haven’t bought a juicer yet and want to be able to juice “exotic” ingredients like hops, or grasses like wheat grass and barley grass, you definitely need to go with a masticating juicer like the Omega Juicer J8005 (shameless link to product.)

Health Benefits of Hops

Hops have long been used as a sleep aid and relaxant in herbal medicine and are often used in dream pillows, along with other aromatic herbs like lavender. It is these properties that turns our hop juice into a great remedy against insomnia, or to lessen the symptoms of nervousness, restlessness, and stress.

Hops also have a soothing and relaxing effect on the digestive tract. They have anti-inflammatory properties. In Chinese medicine, alcoholic hop extracts are used as an antibiotic, and to cure various diseases, among them leprosy and pulmonary tuberculosis.

Hop extracts may also be used to alleviate climacteric symptoms such as hot flashes, osteoporosis, and decreased sexual motivation. A recent study on hop extracts has shown promising results, but data on safety and efficacy of using hops in these areas is still scarce.

Our Hop Juice Recipe

Here are the ingredients for our “Hop Juice”. The amounts listed here yield about two glasses of juice, but this will vary based on the size of your fruits and vegetables, of course:

  • 2 large cucumbers
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 1/2 Galia Melon
  • 1 lemon
  • 6 basil leaves
  • 1 quarter-inch slice of ginger
  • 5 hop flowers (fresh if possible)

The cucumber and Galia melon will give the juice a beautiful, clear, light-green color, and the basil, ginger, and hops will create a wonderfully complex flavor and aroma that cannot be described and has to be experienced. We greatly encourage you to try it out, and let us know what you think!

Resources

Wikipedia page on Hops

Want to grow your own Hops? Here’s a great resource from the Oregon Hop Commission: Growing Hops in the Home Garden

Health Benefits of Hops

Planta Medica: Hop Extracts and Hop Substances in Treatment of Menopausal Complaints

You can also make tea from hops: HopsTea.net

Buy hops online: FreshHops.com