On the Culture of Hops in the United States.
By EMMET KANNAL.
(From the Author's Inaugural Essay.)
Hops are indigenous to Asia, but are found growing wild in Europe and were cultivated to a considerable extent in Germany, as far back as the ninth century; they were first introduced into England from Flanders, in the year 1510, during the reign of King Henry VIII. The young tender shoots of the hop vine, especially in the beer countries of Europe, are much esteemed as an article of food; they are taken up when they appear just above the ground, and are cooked and eaten like asparagus or greens, being generally served up as one of the delicacies of the spring season.
When first introduced into London, about the year 1524, the people were very much prejudiced against the use of hops, so much so, that they petitioned King Henry to prohibit their use, claiming that they would spoil the taste of drinks, and endanger the lives of the people; after some time the King granted their petition, and issued an injunction prohibiting the use of hops in the manufacture of ale and beer in that country.
Hops are also found growing wild in hedges and thickets in most parts of the United States, abounding in the valleys of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. Many varieties are cultivated very extensively in our Eastern and Western States, but the kinds known as English Cluster and Grape Hops, seem to be most generally cultivated in the Hop Gardens of New York and Wisconsin; they give the greatest yield and are considered the very best.
Another variety called Pompey Hops is not so well known; the vines are very large, having long branches on which the hops hang in clusters. They are more apt to be injured by rust and insects than the other two kinds mentioned; both are early varieties.
Within the last twenty-five years the cultivation of hops has spread from the sea coast to the Mississippi River; the soil selected is usually of considerable elevation. Ground that will yield good corn and potatoes is very suitable for hops; it must be dry, rich and exposed to plenty of sunshine, very stony ground being objectionable, both on account of the difficulty in setting poles for the vines to climb, as well as the inconvenience and hard labor required in preparing and attending the soil, which may be greatly enriched and increase the growth by placing old bones around the roots of the vines. Shelter from cold winds is very necessary to protect the vines; thick woods and barren valleys are not well adapted for the growth of hops, since rust, blight and insects are likely to injure them in such localities, while sunshine and protection from cold winds may be regarded sure preventives for the same.
The vines are trained to twine around poles with the sun, by tying them on with strings. In the state of New York, where they are very extensively cultivated, great care is taken. A piece of high and dry ground is there selected, and men attend to the setting out, training, trimming, picking and drying at the proper time. Hop vines are generally set out during the spring months, and bear a crop of hops the same year; the usual time for gathering comes about September 1st, before any frost has appeared, which very much deteriorates them. To determine when they have come to maturity, and are ready to pick, is designated by the condition of the strobiles and the general appearance of the seed, which should be of a dark brown color and hard; the scales then commence to loosen, and when at this stage the strobiles should be collected. They are then dried, which is best done by artificial heat, great care being requisite not to apply too much heat, which would drive off the volatile principle and render the hops very brittle and unfit for market, through the loss of their lupulin in packing.
The total product of hops in the United States in 1850, was little more than three millions pounds; while in 1860, it had increased to nearly eleven millions pounds, and of this amount the state of New York produced nine millions pounds. In the year 1861, about eight millions pounds were exported. Hops, when packed in bales, are sometimes adulterated, the outside consisting of good hops, while the interior is filled with hops deprived of the lupulin, and sprinkled over with lycopodium and powdered rosin to hide the fraud.
I have obtained from one pound of fair commercial hops, 1 1/4 oz lupulin; from a pound of fresh New York hops 1 oz, and from fresh Philadelphia hops 3/4 oz, averaging 1 oz from the pound, or 6 1/4 per cent. The smaller yield in the last two cases was due to the fresh condition of the hops.