Hops are the most popularly used flavouring agents for beer. These flowers are produced by the hop plant which is a perennial, climbing and herbaceous plant. It is the female flowers that go into making up the unique bitter flavour of beer. For hop cultivators, successful crops depend on the right time of planting, excellent care of the hop plant, providing all the right “ingredients” for its growth and knowing the right time to harvest.
Timing the harvest
Judging the readiness of the hops is critical. Too soon, and the hops will simply not be flavoursome. Too late and the hops will, almost literally, shatter during the processing stages. The most successful way to determine whether the hops are ready to be harvested is simply by looking at them and touching them. Mature hops will be light green and will have a lupulin residue coating them. Lupulin is a sticky yellow powder and will coat one’s hands when the cones are touched. Mature cones or hops flowers will also be light and papery.
Methods of hops harvesting
Broadly speaking, there are two methods – hand picking the cones and cutting off the entire vine. It is important to wear protective gloves and clothes when harvesting hops since they may lead to rashes.
One of the hops harvesting method relies on the use of a ladder. An individual can then climb the poles that support these plants and simply hand pick the cones that are ready for harvesting. Safety considerations need to be kept in mind so there is no harm to the person doing the climbing. This method is certainly labour intensive and time consuming. It may perhaps be better suited for small scale farmers.
Large scale farmers tend to rely on a higher degree of mechanisation to harvest hops. This method relies on cutting the vines at a predetermined height, leaving at least three feet of plant still in the earth. The twister leaf trimmer is the machine that is used by most of them and is a very fast trimmer. The vines are then loaded on to a truck and carried to a picking machine. This machine culls the cones and small leaves out of the vine. Further stages of processing results in debris like vines, leaves and other matter being discarded.
Author Bio: I am a writer with special interest in agriculture, farming and machinery. I have written various articles on these subjects and you can find more info at http://www.thetwistermachine.com
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Article Added on Sunday, November 18, 2012
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