Did you know that hop sprouts are part of Alsatian and Flemish cuisine? In the land of green gold, in an enchanting setting amongst vineyards and orchards, you can travel the "hops route." You'll find long wooden stakes set crosswise in the soil, tied together by string, for as far as the eye can see. The hardy vines climb up toward the sky. They can grow about 1 cm an hour when the sun is shining, wending their way along the taut support strings.
Growing from a perennial stock, the plant sends down roots almost 4 meters deep and can extend for up to 10 meters along the stakes, depending on the variety and growing method. When the vines put out their first shoots in the spring, only three of them will wind around the stakes and continue growing to become scions. The others are removed so as not to sap the plant's strength. This pruning is done by hand: a long, exhausting and labor-intensive job.
The sprouts that are cut off, available only for a short period, look like thin asparagus and are an exquisite food. Since Roman times, hop sprouts have been considered a sophisticated and ephemeral product, the result of a capricious harvest.
Hops have been appreciated as a multi-purpose medicinal plant since the 16th century. They are a tonic, diuretic and depurative. They have essential sedative and soporific qualities, as well as being appetite-stimulating and antiseptic because of their bitterness. Hops are an excellent tonic for the digestive system.
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