After the Autumn harvest, hops die back completely, but as soon as it starts to warm up in March, the hop shoots start to push their way through the soil. What starts out as a deep dark purple coloured shoot, soon turns into bright green tendrils – also known as the ‘tips’.
For a few precious weeks in March these shoots provide a delicious vegetable before developing into hop bines in the summer months. These early shoots or tips have been used medicinally for thousands of years. Egyptians used hops to treat liver disease and digestive problems, whilst hop compresses were said to be able to ease pain and inflammation.
Scientists have now discovered that chemicals in these shoots appear to ease the symptoms of the menopause and even help stop the proliferation of cancer cells. Professor Stuart Milligan from King’s College London and his team have managed to isolate and identify a hormonally active compound in the hop called hopein – which is one of the most potent phyto-oestrogens. These chemicals have similar structures to the female hormone oestrogen and can mimic its beneficial effects. Furthermore, hops also contain lupulin; a strong anti-cancer compound and xanthohumol in hop shoots is also being studied for its anti-cancer properties.
So why not try these ‘hop asparagus’ . They are best eaten soon after being plucked from the ground, when they are at their sweetest!
- Nayyar, womenfitness.net April 2013