Ark of taste
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Hopshoots come from any of the many varieties of hops (Humulus lupulus). In the UK, they are sometimes called hop asparagus or poor man’s asparagus. Hopshoots are the young tips of the perennial hop plant. At the start of their growth, they are dark purple in color and change quickly to produce vivid green curling tips. They are less than 15 cm in length. The younger the plant, the more asparagus-like it appears. Hops in general are largely used within the beer brewing industry for the varying bitter tasting qualities that different varieties offer. Hopshoots also reflect this quality and offer a pleasant bitterness in taste. Further characteristics of hopshoots include having a fresh, delicate flavor and being slightly peppery. Comparisons in taste qualities are often made between asparagus and hopshoots. They can be steamed, used in stir-frying, soups or risotto dishes. Hopshoots are mainly produced in Kent and Sussex (along England’s southern coast) and Herefordshire and Worcestershire (in western central England). As well as being valued within the brewery industry, hops were also acknowledged by medieval monks as a medicinal herb, and were sought after by the Romans who viewed them as a culinary delicacy. The hop industry within England is thought to have originated in Kent around 1520 before expanding into the areas of Herefordshire and Worcestershire. These areas provided the ideal growing conditions for hops and were in close distance to valuable workforces within the Midlands. Various festivals such as the Bromyard Hop Festival in Herefordshire and Faversham Hop Festival in Kent still celebrate the rich hop history and production of these areas. Furthermore, the London Brewers’ Alliance ‘London Hop Shoot Festival’, which aimed to celebrate London’s brewery industry and the connection between the town and countryside, also worked with Kent hopshoot producers to celebrate the cause. Hopshoots have a limited growing season and are only available during a few weeks in March and April. Organic growing is needed in order to eat hopshoots as a vegetable. They have to be picked quickly before they develop into the hop vine, and can be sold in either bud or tip form. Hopshoots are only available on the market in extremely limited quantities due to the short seasonal availability, the low number of producers and the small scale of their farms. Hopshoot producers are likely to be those associated with the hop brewery industry and the British Hop Association. Hopshoot production is threatened, as there appears to only be a very small number of known producers. In addition to this, the organic growing methods used cause hopshoots to be particularly vulnerable to insect pests such as aphids, which can be problematic for securing sufficient crops. Furthermore, hops in general are often mainly associated with the brewing industry, which can further limit consumer awareness of the availability of hopshoots as a food.Photo: alastairhumphreys.com 

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StateUnited Kingdom

England - Midlands Occidentali

England - Sud Est

England - Sud Ovest

Production area:Kent, Sussex, Herefordshire and Worcestershire

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Vegetables and vegetable preserves

Nominated by:Genevieve Fernandes