BELGIAN FAMILY HOPS

Spring and hop shoots are in the air!

When thinking about hop, beer is probably the first thing to enter your mind. And you are right. Hop is important for the preservability of beer and it adds bitterness and aroma. Hop is however also very popular in Belgian gastronomy. Hop shoots will be found on the menu of several restaurants during the last two weeks of February and March.

Belgian hops are popular, but unfortunately the supply is limited. The majority is grown in the region of Poperinge as the soil is perfect there for this delicate plant. Most of the production is in the hands of family owned farms. The knowledge and passion of growing hops has been passed on in these families from one generation to the next. Sounds familiar?

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The Desmyter family in Proven, a little village near Poperinge, has been running a hop farm ever since 1893. Today Wout and his wife Benedikte are the fourth generation of hop growers. ’t Hoppecruyt is a modern farm that operates according to the highest standards.

Growing and picking hop shoots is very hard work and it is not easy. They are actually the most expensive vegetable in the world. The price of the very first shoots of the year can go as high as 125 euro for only 100 grams. During the month of March you can help picking hop shoots at ’t Hoppecruyt and taste them straight from the field. You can compare the flavor to winter asparagus. Mild and earthy, but with a little hint of sweetness.

                             Benedikte picking the hop shoots. Picture taken by ‘t Hoppecruyt.

Do you want to experiment yourself?

Try making poached egg on hop shoots. You can find this recipe in Dutch on www.hopscheuten.be. Having difficulty to buy hop shoots? Order on the webshop of ‘t Hoppecruyt and they will be shipped to you.

Ingredients per person:

  • 1 whole egg and 2 egg yolks
  • 70 g of hop shoots
  • 80 g of melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • peper, salt and nutmeg
  • a little bit of cream

Preparation: 

  1. When cleaning the hop shoots, make sure to handle them one by one. You should break them just above the fibrous part, leaving about 5 to 7 cm of the shoot.
  2. Clean thoroughly, washing the sprouts about 5 times under running cold water.
  3. Blanche the shoots for two minutes in salted water with a tablespoon of lemon juice. This will keep the shoots crispy.
  4. Make the sauce by whisking the two egg yolks in a small pan adding two tablespoons of melted butter. Continue whisking the butter into the egg mixture, adding two teaspoons at a time, until all the butter is thoroughly incorporated into the sauce. The sauce should be thick and smooth.
  5. Warm the hop shoots in a little bit of cream and add nutmeg according to your own taste.
  6. Poach the egg.
  7. Place the hop shoots on a warm dish
  8. Add the sauce and carefully put the poached egg on top.
  9. Serve with a piece of bread.

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Source and picture: www.hopscheuten.be