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Hop asparagus: Humulus lupulus




Hop asparagus: Humulus lupulus

As due to the long winter the asparagus season has started a little bit later this year in Germany I think it’s a good idea to write something about a nice alternative, which season already started in mid of March in southern Germany and is still pretty much unknown.

It is called hop asparagus or spring hop shoots. It’s not a relative of the classical asparagus but is called like that as the first white shoots of the hops, look like thin white asparagus spears and once it hits the sunlight turns a purple dark green colour.

In the past, this first shoots were a waste product and were just cut off to reduce the number of shoots, so the energy of the plant just went into a hand full of shoots and the plant is able to grow faster.


Today people more and more recognise the culinary value of the shoots and sell it as a delicacy to restaurants. The shoots have a nice, slightly earthy-bitter flavor with some notes of green asparagus and the about 0,5 cm thin shoots just have to be blanched for a minute and are then already ready to be served.

They can be used as a topping on a salad, a vegetable on the side, in soups or can just be quickly grilled or pickled for later use.


So, it is a really easy vegetable. The only down-side of it is the price. As the cultivation is not yet very industrialised, it takes about 2 hours to harvest one kilogram of the thin shoots. Therefore, one kilogram of it can cost about 50€. On the other hand, it is also not available for very long, which makes it to a specialty.


Although the season starts early, the season is just about two months. To protect the plant the harvest time is mostly just from the beginning from March till the middle of April, so much shorter than the asparagus season.

The reason for it is probably that the main return from the plant gets still be generated from the flowers in autumn and nobody wants to risk diminishing this return, but it would be great to see an increase of the production in some way or form.

Maybe there is a way to just specialise on the first shoots as we do with the classic asparagus. As the price is relatively high I think it could be an interesting path to follow and would also help to bring diversity on to the plates when in the early season there isn’t much regional variety in colder regions.

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