Wild hop shoots thankfully can be found growing all over the place. Preferring moist, alluvial soils, and by that I mean 'fine grain fertile soils deposited by water flowing over flood plains'. Thanks free dictionary. Hops like fences and things to climb and grow around - I found these little shoots growing on some wire fencing by the railway in Chiswick.
The Latin name is Humulus Lupulus, meaning that to my basic mind they sound rather more like a spell from Harry Potter.
Everyone loves hops, since they make beer. Indeed Adnams have just this year been calling on the general public to find and send in their wild hops for a wild hop beer; you'll get a bottle of the brewed wild beer in return. It's the hop flower though that brewers are interested in, leaving the very useful and tasty shoot for the rest of the foraging world to take on.
I am going to be serving these along with some fresh silken cheese and a noma style lemon verbena 'tea' broth at a wild foods evening coming up.
Having first handled these out at noma, it makes sense to me to prepare a dish in their honour. To prepare these when out in denmark we would take a turning knife and very delicately scrape the outside layer from the stem, since it is finely bristled, and we don't want to eat that. This preparation is essential.
To make the cheese, heat the milk slowly to 30c, add the buttermilk, cream and rennet. Do not stir. Once at 30c, transfer straight to a silicone lined container and cook in the oven at 37C for an hour to an hour and a half until tofu like in texture.
That's all, on hops, and cheese. Such an incredibly straightforward and rewarding process.
[Apparently, Charles Darwin entertained himself while sick in bed in 1882 by studying a hop plant growing on his window-sill. He noted that the tip of the stem completed a revolution in 2 hours.]
I'm thrilled with this information as right now, I'm not feeling very well, and hops are my focal point too.