Friday, 27 April 2012

Hop Shoot Picking

Today we did a day trip to the countryside to do some Hop shoot picking for the London Hop Shoot festival.  .
Several vans went out from various locations across London. Ours started at the Old Red Cow in Farringdon. Eight O'clock in the morning, a van full of brewers and publicans set off towards Staplehurst, starting the journey off in style by cracking a few cans. 

We arrived at the farm. The hop plants are this big at the moment.. Some  were burned off but haven't grown back yet as expected because of cold weather. 
A quick demo of how long we want the picked shoots to be.
And off we go up the field. All the shoots look like little antennas reaching for the sky.

Hop shoots have been called "Poor man's Asparagus" as they look and taste similar, and we were told they used to be a source of free food for farm labourers.

Some people carefully trimmed the leaves and lengths to save room and save time in the kitchen later. Others went for speed and just put everything in the bags.
@shoozographer & I both dressed  for torrential downpours, sleet, hail and war. It wasn't necessary in the end, as it turned out to be a magnificent sunny day in the garden of England.
Fullers Derek brought along a cask for us all to drink in the fields. Fantastic! Believe it or not, that was exactly the correct thing to do. 

A cookery demo. Below the cooker is a pan of reduced beer with lemon juice. The hop shoots were cooked with this, some rapeseed oil and salt. There was also Moscatel on the ingredients board but it wasn't used in the end.


We were shown some foraging tips. This is a rapeseed field. The shoots that come out of the sides can be picked and eaten so long as the heads are very tight and not yet starting to look like proper flower buds. They look a little like purple sprouting broccoli, but taste sweeter and nicer. 

Well, that was excellent. To the pub!  After a big spread of munchies and a few pints in the sun, all that remains is to get the hop shoots delivered to the pubs for tonight's dinners.


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