So this year I finally got hops (Humulus lupulus) from my bines*.
I wanted a plain hop, not one of those highly bred fancy varieties they use for making beer, so I ordered seeds a few years ago. Of ten seeds, only three germinated; abysmal as that sounds, it’s actually not too bad for hops.
Hops plants are either male or female, but only the female plants are generally considered desirable. The female flowers develop into the structures that humans use. Unfortunately, a hop plant grown from seed takes three full years (that’s four growing seasons) to flower. So it’s taken this long just to find out if I had any female (useful) plants.
Thankfully, I got my ideal mix from the three plants: two females and one male. Although one can use only the female structures, the male plant at least ensures that if I want/need any, I can get seeds from the female plants as well. Two female plants should produce enough strobiles for my needs. I expect/hope that as time goes by and the plants get more mature, they will produce more flowers.
As for why I planted them: I have mild seasonal insomnia. It’s not as bad as it could be, but irritating enough. Hops are a gentle, natural, but quite effective sedative. Hops pickers were notorious for being vague and sleepy all the time. And no, I did not plant them for making beer. I’m not particularly fond of beer.
As an aside, hops can also be decorative; there are ornamental varieties available too.
*Yes, bines. Vines climb by clinging to other things with tendrils; bines climb by using stiff bristles that catch and stick. Hops stems are so bristly that just dragging one across your skin can cause really painful abrasions; it’s almost like sandpaper.