Belgian hop shoots, the edible white gold and ultimate springtime delicacy

What are fresh hop shoots and when are they at their best? Hop shoots are a delicacy in Belgium. Have you ever tasted them before?

What are fresh hop shoots and when are they at their best? Hop shoots are a delicacy in Belgium. Have you ever tasted them before?

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What are hop shoots? Are hops edible?

Hop goes by the scientifical name of humulus-lupulus.

Its benefits were discovered quite some time ago, in the early 11th century. Hop bells and stem are used to make beer and medicine such as antibiotics.

The hop bells are not edible, however you can eat the young white shoots on the hop vines.

When do hop shoots grow? How do you grow hop shoots?

The season of fresh hop shoots in Belgium is short but sweet.

Hop plants are a climbing vine that can grow more than 7 meters in height. The dried hop bells (or flowers) are one of the main ingredients of beer.

When winter draws to a close and the weather becomes milder, new and fresh shoots grow underground at the base of the hope vine trunk. They soar in the soil, where they are well protected from any sunlight.

Now at this point there are 2 things a hop farmer can do with them. Just cut the shoots off to make the vines grow stronger and higher and produce more hop bells.

Or harvest the fresh white shoots.

Culinary delicacy

So the fresh shoots start to grow underground by the end of February.

It still remains a tricky time though.

Rain won’t harm the shoots. However when the weather changes and it starts freezing again, that can be detrimental to the young hop shoots.

Harvesting the hop shoots can only be harvested one by one by hand. And that requires a lot of time and dedication, which makes the vegetable highly sought after.

Hop shoots, the edible white gold

Fresh hop shoots are fragile and need to be harvested manually with the greatest care.

Here in Belgium restaurant owners and chefs always look forward to the arrival of the first batch of this delicious vegetable. The labour intensive manual harvest of the shoots and its short shelf life make this white vegetable a true delicacy.

Unfortunately very little restaurants put hop shoots on their menu.

Restaurant ‘t Hommelhof in Watou used to serve hop shoots. However this year I haven’t seen the shoot on their menu.

The Butcher’s Store in Antwerp provides a takeaway recipe for a few weeks with hop shoots to highlight this vegetable’s culinary value.

Do you want to try them out yourself?

You can find fresh hop shoots in the right month at the Saturday farmers market in Antwerp! We have bought them a few times at Rudy’s fruit and vegetable stand next to Grand Café Horta.

What do hop shoots taste like?

As much as they kind of look like bean sprouts, their flavor is totally different.

Fresh hop shoots taste a little nutty and earthy at the same time. Think of a mixture of endives and white asparagus.

Why are hop shoots so expensive?

The shoots harvest is very labour intensive and only lasts for just a few weeks so therefore it is quite an expensive vegetable.

The taste of the shoots is more than worth it though.

What are fresh hop shoots and when are they at their best? Hop shoots are a delicacy in Belgium. Have you ever tasted them before?

What is the price of hop shoots?

The very first batch of freshly harvested shoots here in Belgium sell for a ridiculous price.

Popular (Michelin star) restaurants pay top dollar for it.

Prices go up every year. This year’s price at our local farmers market is 245 euros for a kilogram (2,2 lbs). Fortunately you can buy less of course. A portion of 100 grams (3,5 oz) is more than enough for 2 people.

Is it expensive?

Yes, but again totally worth looking forward to it once a year.

What is benefits of hop shoots?

The dried, flowering part of the hop plant is not only used to make beer, but medicine as well.

Hops are used in herbal medicine to battle a variety of disorders such as anxiety, insomnia, ADHD and nervousness just to name a few.

The shoots are also cultivated on a large scale in India for both food and medical research purposes.

Hop shoots with soft boiled egg

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2 people

Ingredients

  • 100 grams (3,5 oz) fresh hop shoots
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • pepper
  • salt

Instructions

  1. Transfer the fresh shoots to a colander and rinse them under cold running tap water.
  2. Pour them onto a clean and dry kitchen towel (or kitchen paper if you like) and very gently pat them dry. The shoots are very fragile, handle them with care!
  3. Boil the eggs for 5 minutes until soft boiled, then carefully peel them. You can also poach them if you prefer.
  4. Pour the olive oil in a non stick pan and place it over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the shoots.
  5. Gently stir fry the shoots for 3 minutes.
  6. Season with pepper and salt.
  7. Divide the stir fried shoots over plates and top them off with an egg.
  8. Season one last time with pepper and salt.

How about you?

Have you ever tasted hop shoots before?

And did you like them or not?

Was it worth it or overrated an expensive?

Do you know of restaurants that still put the shoots on their menu?

Let us know in the comments below.

We’d love to hear from you!

Where should we send

YOUR FREE ROME TRAVEL GUIDE?
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A free 30-page ebook with our best addresses for sleeping, eating, visiting and entertainment in the most beautiful city of Europe
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