Hops

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A flowering plant that emerges with a hearty, tough stem that grows into a lengthy, winding vine. Related to the species of plants that include stinging nettles, the Hops plant develops small prickly protrusions on the stems, somewhat like the nettles. In addition, the stem sprouts heart-shaped leaves with toothed edges. Dark green in color, the Hops plant produces cone-shaped flowers from the axils of the leaves on this plant, a species which grows as either a male or female plant. The male plant produces loosely arranged flower petals, referred to aspanicles that grow from 2 to 5 inches in size. The female plant produces smaller cone-like flowers without petals, referred to as strobiles that grow in a range of 1/2 inch to just over 1 inch in size. Small yellowish-green bracts grow at the base of the flowers, where the bracts surround the small fruit of the Hops known as achene. Small grains of a yellow translucent substance develop as glands on the bracts and the fruit of the Hops, which is the key component that provides the bitter flavor and value for harvesting the Hops plant as the cones of the Hops become light brown to amber in color. However, it is only the female plant that produces the cone flower for harvesting the fruits that are dried and used for making beer and ale. The Hops provides a slightly bitter flavoring as well as a preservative when added to the various beverages produced with the use of the Hops plant.

Hops is not only used for making beverages but it is also a plant grown for use as a herb before it fully matures. The early stage tender green shoots are used as an ingredient in various foods such as sauteed greens, soups, stews, teas, or dried and used as a supplement in herbal remedies.

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