Monday, August 13, 2012

Hops Harvest 2012 (and garden update)

I have been keeping track of my hops daily for the past couple of weeks, as it seems they were getting closer and closer to harvest time. On Friday I noticed that the majority of the cones on the plant were ready for harvest - thanks again to everyone's insight on judging "ripeness". Since I knew I wouldn't have time after work next week, and I could just leave any undeveloped cones on the plant for a second harvest, I decided that Sunday would be harvest day #1. I say number one because there are still a lot of burrs left on both plants, and I plan on a second, smaller harvest in another two to three weeks.
I decided to put the awful weather we get in the summer here to use - hot with low humidity - to dry my hops.
I built a drying screen out of some spare lumber and vent screening lying around in the garage so that I could lay the cones out in a single layer and dry them in the garage, out of the sunlight and away from the wind and insects.

After I had finished building the screen, I set up the ladder and got to work. I had the pleasure of harvesting most of the hops in the rain, which seemed to start just as I got to the top of the ladder and didn't stop until I was almost done (go figure).

Now, from what I've read, most people just cut the bine off at the ground, lay it out, and pluck the hops that way. However, I still had a good half the plant covered in burrs and didn't want to give up a second harvest, so I instead cut the cones from the bine, working my way from the top of the plant down to the bottom, skipping any hops that weren't compeletely developed yet. I ended up harvesting nearly a pound of fresh hops (14.8 ounces to be exact), which will give me about 3 ounces of dried hops. I laid them out on the screen and left them in the garage, where I'm hoping they will be ready to vacuum-pack and freeze in 2-3 days.

While I was harvesting, I noticed my Centennial plant is starting to put out burrs as well - not a lot, but I will probably get four or five ounces off the plant, which is pretty good considering that from what I've heard I shouldn't expect anything from it the first year. I'm hoping to get another 8-10 ounces total so that I can try my hand at a wet hopped ale, but I won't know until the rest of the cones are ready.

Finally, as for the other project in the garden - grapes. Well, the Pinot Gris clusters are starting to ripen, so I can probably expect to harvest those in a few weeks. Not enough for a batch of wine, but more than enough for my Pinotlambicus clone I'm working on (more on that in a future post). Still, I took a few minutes to get some bird netting up and over the grape plant to keep out any pesky birds (or squirrels, for that matter).

Notice the grapes turning greyish-pink. Bird netting is in place now.

My centennial plant, putting out burrs (finally!).

From what I hear, these are called "angel hops". No idea what causes them to sprout leaves, but they sure look cool!

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