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    Nugget Hop Cone Harvest 2017

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    1.2 pounds of Nugget hop cones drying on a screen.

    Nugget Hop Cones Drying

    Today is the Nugget hop cone harvest of 2017.  I picked the last of my varieties of hops –  Nugget hops.  I ended up with 1.2 pounds of hop cones.  Not a record but worthy of picking.  It took about an hour.

    As with any gardening endeavour, the harvest is always satisfying.  Don’t get me wrong, they are fun to watch grow (up to a foot a day during peak)!  Not to mention they are a beautiful and unique plant.

    To make it more enjoyable I had  a cigar, and listened to my Pandora harvest mix of rocking blues, punk, raggae and classic rock.  It has become a tradition while harvesting.

    Something happened to the lower laterals where they died off.  Not sure what, whether they were storm damaged, insects or what.  The vast majority of the bines were unaffected.  I lost maybe a hundred cones – not bad.

    The Nugget hops are the last to harvest – they always are 1 to 2 weeks behind the Cascades and Magnum hops.  That is the end of the hops season for me.  We’ll see what next year brings.  This is year number nine for these hops – next year will be season ten!

    As usual, I re-raised the bines after harvest to gather energy for next year’s crop.  It is easy to do with my pulley setup I use.  I will cut them down after they die off following the first hard frost.

    We will see what the 2018 season brings.  Hopefully those who grow their own hops had

    Nugget hop bines ready for harvest.

    Nugget Hop Bines

    a great year.  Let us know how you did this season.  If you aren’t growing hops but have been thinking about it – just do it.  It is easy and they grow like weeds.  Just to let you know,  you probably won’t get much of a first year harvest so the sooner you get started the better.

    Here is some basic info on how to grow hops

    Soil Preparation

    You don’t know if you don’t try.  It doesn’t cost much to get started.  Next spring get some hop rhizomes or plants and give it a try.  If you are considering it, prep the area you plan on planting this fall.  Just dig down a foot or 2 and add some organic material to the soil – compost, composted manure, grass clippings(with no herbicides) and leaves.  Fertile soil will get them off to a good start.


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    1.6 pounds of Cascade hop cones drying on a screen.

    Cascade Hop Cones Drying

    I harvested the Cascade and Magnum hops this weekend. Looks like I waited too long. I didn’t have time to harvest last weekend (and they were rain soaked at the time). The Cascade’s were mostly mature. Half of the Magnum hop cones were turning brown. That’s the thing about harvesting hops, there is a relatively short window to catch them at their prime.

    I haven’t brewed in about 20 years. I grow hops as a hobby and give them to my home brewing friends (I get homebrew in return!). When I was brewing, there were only lagers and Guinness available in the liquor stores (Minnesota thing, I realize other states have beer stores and some states you can buy in the grocery stores). Now there are so many choices and they are better than most of my brews (although mine were tasty).

    My homebrewing friends and I used to bottle in 2 liter plastic bottles and bring to the Boundary Waters of Minnesota/Canada(BWCA). Portaging a 100 pound pack of beer/ales was tough but tasted so good once you made your destination. Plastic is mandatory as no glass allowed and you had to burn your garbage.

    Lowered bines of the Cascade hops picked clean.

    Cascade Bines Harvested

    Harvesting Hops

    Back to harvesting hops. I picked approximately 1.6 pounds of Cascade hop cones. I only picked half a pound of Magnum hops as many were totally brown. I have them drying under a ceiling fan in my air conditioned basement. It only takes 2 to 3 days and they are completely dry. Then I will tightly pack them in gallon sized ziplock bags, squeeze the air out and seal them. I put them in the freezer until I have a brewing friend that is ready to take them.

    I got stung by a bee while harvesting this time. Bees were constantly buzzing around but left me alone for the most part. One stung my toe through the opening in my sandals. After I had the Magnum bines lowered, I saw the hive in the peak of my garage – the Magnums are mounted in the peak using a pulley. Not sure if the bine movement pissed them off or not. First time in 9 years of growing hops I got stung. Would have really sucked if I used a ladder to harvest, I would have probably gotten stung a bunch more times as the top of the bines were inches from the hive.

    Pulley System

    As you can see in the picture, I have the bines on a pulley system so I can harvest from the ground.  After picking the bines clean, I re-raise the hop bines to continue to gather energy for the next season.  Many people cut them off at havest, I wait until a hard frost kills them, then I cut them about an inch above ground.

    Hopefully I will be able to harvest the Nugget hops next weekend. I will keep you posted.

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    The Cascade and Magnum hops are getting close to harvest time.  My Nugget hops are

    Hop cones getting close to harvest time.

    Hop Cones Galore

    always 2 weeks behind the other two.  This has been a crazy season.  It has been hot, it has been cold, it has rained like crazy.  The lakes and ponds are all at high levels with our abundance of rain.  The mosquitoes and mushrooms are doing well also.

    With all this rain comes a leeching of nutrients from the soil.  I don’t use chemical fertilizers on my hops other than a couple of foliar feedings with Miracle-Gro.  The rest is top dressing the soil with my homemade compost and sprinkling of some Azomite minerals on the ground.  Compost is a slow releaser of nutrients and doesn’t leech out of the soil like chemical fertilizers do (I don’t like chemicals in my food, the soil or the water table for obvious reasons).

    Three varieties of hops bines, Nugget, Magnum and Cascade.

    Nugget Magnum Cascade Hops

    I have yet to have a pest problem in 9 years and I attribute that to an organic upbringing.  Some of the leaves show wear and tear.  There are some signs of insects munching on the leaves, holes from hail, but not enough to damage or hinder the hop bines.  There are some Japanese beetles around but they do not seem to be attracted to my hops.

    Hop Harvest

    I will likely be harvesting the Cascade and Magnum hop bines next weekend, weather permitting.  It is supposed to rain all day Saturday and half of Sunday this weekend (plus they are still wet from rain.  The hop cones are not quite ready anyway – they fail the squeeze test.  The squeeze test is used to determine if they are ready to harvest.  When the majority of cones squeeze almost flat, feel papery and bounce back to almost the orriginal size, they are ready to harvest.  If they are not ready, they will not squeeze flat, they will feel moist and possibly cool from moisture content.

    Drying Hop Cones

    After you harvest the hop cones, you can use immediately as a “fresh hop” also known as “wet hopping”.  Otherwise they must be dried or they will spoil – get moldy…  I place the hop cones on screens, single layer and place under a ceiling fan in my air conditioned (dry air) basement.  If you don’t have a ceiling fan, use a regular fan to ensure airflow to aid drying.

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