Hop cones

Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!

Well, it’s “cheerio” to summer and hello to Fall. And boy does it feel like summer’s left us in a hurry!  These last few days it’s been gloomy gray, socked in we are under a thick and sometimes drizzly marine layer.

Labor Day turns a new leaf here on the urban homestead. Letting summer be bygones we’ve jumped right into a flurry of Fall preparations.  Tis “Harvest Time!”

This is our first year growing hops and we were pleased to see the vines just take off and start covering one of our arbors in a matter of months. I simply love the foliage and papery cones that cascade down. Of course, with the first year they say you won’t harvest enough to make your own hooch but no matter we already have a use for our 1 gallon bag harvest. We aren’t big beer drinkers anyhoo, sure we’ll have a bottle or two when friends come over but we really are planting hops for experience and summer shade. If we can – why not. Just another life skill to notch on the re-skill belt. Oh and we have this obsession of only planting edible and useful plants!

While the guys may be mulling over the brewing properties, I am actually more excited over the herbal properties of hops and will be making up some “Sleepy Time Pillows.” Combing the now drying hop cones with other scented herbs in the garden like mint, lavender, rose petals and more. Perhaps selling a few on the front porch farm stand?

Ready or not?

Since it was the first time harvesting these highly aromatic cones ( though they looked ready to me) to make absolutely sure they were up to harvesting, we read a passage saying:

But how do you know when it is time to pick your hops and reap the rewards? It is best to determine the readiness for picking by feel and smell. If the cone is too green, it feels slightly damp to the touch and has a softness to its scales. If you squeeze the cone, it will stay compressed in your hand. A ready cone will feel papery and light. It will feel drier than a green cone, and some varieties take a lighter tone as they mature. If your hands quickly take up the smell and are slightly sticky due to the yellow powdery lupulin, that cone is ready for harvest. – Hops in the Backyard

Squeezing the lil cones (I thought they smelled slightly like pineapple) it sure felt papery light to me so we up and harvested the lot.

Drying time

What do you look forward to doing, harvesting this fall?

Happy Harvest Ya’ll!


  1. Dog Island Farm says:

    We just harvested all of our volunteer squash this past weekend. Posted a photo of it yesterday actually. We haven’t harvested our “planned” squash yet, but with everything we’re probably looking at 1,000 lbs of squash this year. Hopefully it’s enough to get us through the year. I’ll need to come up with some inventive ways of preparing it.

    • Julie says:

      @Dog Island Farm,
      Super cool. I would love to add some to my garden next year. Would they grow in zone 4a?

  2. Alice says:

    Hops was used to make yeast for bread making. You could try that too. You make a starter that is fed like sourdough.

    • Stacy says:

      @Alice, Thanks for sharing this, Alice. I’ve been researching ways to be more self-sufficient and wondered how to make yeast like what I buy in the store. Thanks!

      • Jeni says:

        @Stacy, Yes Thank you for sharing this! I was just buying some yeast the other and wondering how I could make my own:)

        • Frank says:

          @Jeni, Yeast is everywhere and it is free for the taking. Just put a bowl of equal parts water and flour on your counter and you will capture the wild yeast in your area. This is how you make your own sourdough starter. Lots to info on the net about keeping it going and using it. It isn’t quite as strong as commercial yeast but makes better bread in my opinion.
          Have a Great Day!!

    • Anais says:

      @Alice: Neat, thanks for sharing!

  3. Ginger says:

    I’m going to make sleepy-time pillows for my adult children and their spouses for Christmas this year. I did not grow my own hops this year but hope add it to my herb garden next year. How big do you make your pillows and what sort of fabric?

    We had a great harvest this year of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, several herbs, cucumbers, and broccolini. I still have to dig up the potatoes to see how they did. Not too bad for such a short, cold summer. The snow in June killed all the apples and peaches. The hot wind the next week killed the raspberries. But I’m undaunted and plan to put in espalier cherries next month and several thorn-less blackberries next spring. I got the Jeavons books and am very excited to go to the next level.

  4. Dree says:

    Lucky you! We are by LAX and have been socked in since May–for the second “summer” in a row. Our hop harvests have been horrible. Only the chard likes this weather.

  5. Dan Langhoff says:

    I remember when I lived up in Portland, Oregon and I was harvesting all of the cones from my hops. There were so many of them, over 5 gallons of them that the smell made me fall asleep in my chair as I was harvesting them. Beware, the aromatics are powerful when fresh.

  6. Heather H :) :) :) says:

    I’m amazed at all the things you grow in your backyard. That’s truly impressive. I don’t know a thing about “hops”…so this was really interesting to read.!!!
    My grandfather grew up in Pasadena and he’d get a kick knowing what you grow in your backyard. He’d think it’s really cool!!!

    Have a great week. Hugs from Oregon, Heather 🙂

  7. Meghan says:

    Hops are so beautiful! I had no idea, and I really didn’t know they could be used for anything but beer. This makes me want to try and grow them!

  8. Hop Head says:

    Your hops look ready to harvest or close to it. I harvested my hops this Labor day weekend. Cascade, Magnum and Fuggle hops. I still have Nugget hops on the bine – not quite ready.

    Wait till next year – they will absolutely take off!

    • DJK says:

      @Hop Head,

      I love that it’s “bine” and not “vine”. In Boating, the rope used to connect the bow of the boat to the anchor is called “rode” not “rope”.

      English is neat.

    • Anais says:

      @Hop Head: I know can’t wait! Not only are hops great for brewing they have quite a bit of medicinal benefits too http://urbanhomestead.org/journal/2010/07/29/project-hops/

  9. Julie says:

    Can hops grow in zone 4a? I’d love to grow some in my garden next year.

  10. Christa says:

    My youngest son, who turns 4 tomorrow, and i went out to the garden today to harvest. It’s a small garden this year, due to our late move back into our WI house (zone 5), but we did get 4 lbs of goods–about half tomatoes, most of the rest was carrots, and a few purple green beans, and one tiny head of broccoli. not much, i know, but it’s a start! My first successful carrots in this house (which we’ve lived here 5 of the last 7 years).

    Even better, in some respects, we harvested a dozen or so radish seed pods, and about 20 peas from pods that had dried on the vines. granted, they’re hybrids, but this is my first year saving seed so it’s a good exercise. i figure the radishes at least will still produce radishes, since it’s a root crop.

    Waiting on the corn to dry (dakota black popcorn and hopi pink flour corn). more tomatoes to come. the chaco canyon beans are just starting.. been flowering for a week.

    I love Fall!

    • Anais says:

      @Christa: Way to grow. All sounds so yummy. Lucky you to have corn – and with awesome names. Happy fall!

      • Christa says:

        @Anais, first year trying corn. you guys don’t grow it? no where near a decent harvest–i think i have about 2 ears of each, out of 15 or so stalks of each. the sweet corn didn’t do anything. I have to find a way to support it. wind kept knocking it over.

  11. Tina says:

    Hops is definitely good for more than beer (a good thing for those of us who don’t like beer!). Here is a bit of info on medicinal uses for hops:

    Historical or traditional use (may or may not be supported by scientific studies)

    The most common use traditionally was to soothe the stomach and promote healthy digestion. Hops tea was also recommended by herbalists as a mild sedative and remedy for insomnia, particularly for those with insomnia resulting from an upset stomach. A pillow filled with hops was sometimes used to encourage sleep. Hops was also thought by herbalists to have a diuretic effect and to treat sexual neuroses. A poultice of hops was used topically to treat sores and skin injuries and to relieve muscle spasms and nerve pain.

    Active constituents: considered a Bitter. The two primary bitter constituents are known as humulone and lupulone. These are thought to be responsible for the appetite-stimulating properties of hops. Hops also contain about 1-3% volatile oils. Hops also contain phytoestrogens that bind estrogen receptors in test tube studies but are thought to have only mild estrogen-like actions.

    Dosage: The German Commission E monograph recommends a single application of 500 mg of dried herb for anxiety or insomnia. The dried fruits can be made into a tea by pouring 1 cup (250 ml) of boiling water over 1-2 teaspoons (5-10 grams) of the fruit. Steep for ten to fifteen minutes before drinking. Tinctures, 1/4-1/2 teaspoon (1-2 ml) two or three times per day, can also be used. Many herbal preparations use hops in combination with herbal sedatives, including valerian, passion flower, and scullcap.

    Side Effects: GRAS (generally recognized as safe). There are also currently no known drug interactions.

    Hope that helps! Though, I’m sure the beer drinkers will still want it for beer. sigh

  12. Ruth G says:

    the hops look great!! After last year’s cold, wet summer, we were delighted that we had tomatoes this year. Everyone of them rotted last year. I just wish they didn’t all wait until four days before we go away for a vacation to ripen! But, we made the time and last night put up 11 pints of tomato sauce and, come winter, we will be blessing the day we made the time to make and put them up. We also harvested and canned up 6 quarts of wild grape juice from the woods out behind our house. Raspberries are also coming in fast and furious. For now we have just frozen them and will do somehting with them when we return from vacation. I suppose it was a bit short sighted to plan a vacation in the season that is rightfully called “harvest time.”

  13. Harriette Jensen says:

    Your article reminded me of a photograph taken on my gg-uncle William Andrew Jackson Hoisington’s farm in Yewed Oklahoma in which the whole familly, including my g-grandparents, were shown harvesting hops. The photograph was taken around 1910, just before the family moved to Oregon. The photo is posted at http://www.okcomputer.org/hoisington/hops1.jpg.


  14. AlizaEss says:

    My neighbors are growing hops and just gifted me with a bag of them. I’ve been making tea- it’s bitter but I like it.

    One of my favorite tea blends is lavender with a sweet basil (not the Italian kind, but I don’t think it’s Tulsi either.. something in between!) The hops are an interesting addition.

  15. Don Lohr says:


    Either the deer or the rabbits got my hops late this spring. I planted them to help my bee hives. It would help if I lived on site. Exactly what use(s) were you looking at when you planted?

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