Beer isn't the only beverage that uses hops as an ingredient.
The herb's cone-shaped blossoms can be used to make tea or even a limeade, like the one that will be served at the 24th annual Herb Day on May 5, at the Sedgwick County Extension Education Center.
Herb Day, sponsored by Kansas State Research and Extension and its master gardener program and the Herb Society of South Central Kansas, is celebrating hops as the national herb of the year and rosemary as the local herb of the year.
Sharon Rutherford, a member of the herb society, discovered the limeade recipe while researching uses for hops. She has an interest in the medicinal qualities of herbs.
While most people are familiar with hops' essential role in brewing beer, it also has been used as a relaxant and sleep aid.
Three years ago, Rutherford planted a rhizome of the plant from Desert Canyon Farm in Colorado. “It looks beautiful right now,” she said of the perennial, but the plant hasn't produced cones to harvest yet. To make the limeade, she purchases dried hops online from Mountain Rose Herbs.
During Herb Day, Rebecca McMahon, a horticulture agent with K-State, will talk about growing hops in Kansas.
“It can grow like crazy,” said McMahon, “and then you just hack it back.”
The fast-growing vine does well on a trellis or crawling over a deck in full sun and well-drained soil, McMahon said. In the extension center's demonstration garden, the cascade variety of the herb grows within a tomato cage. The plant can be cut back to encourage growth or to overwinter.
Hops come in several varieties, with different acidic ranges. The cascade variety, for example, McMahon said, has mid-range acidity compared to other varieties. It's described by gardening experts as having a floral, spicy and citrus-like quality and is popular with the U.S. craft brewing industry. McMahon said cascade was chosen for the demo garden because research showed it's the most heat tolerant for this area.
Saturday's Herb Day also focuses on rosemary “since most people want to know about a common culinary herb,” said McMahon.
Rosemary, which has a strong, pine-type flavor, has several uses in cooking. Its minced leaves can be added to butter or ground with salt. It can be used to flavor meats and other savory dishes, like roasted potatoes or other vegetables. Because it can stand up to heat, it can be used at the start of cooking a dish to add flavor, unlike basil, said Lisa LaRue, the society's president and a master gardener.
During Herb Day demonstrations, participants will experience some sweet treats and beverages that use rosemary. Chef Paul Guerrero from the Reflection Ridge Golf Club is expected to share a rosemary and pine nut brittle recipe, and Rutherford will talk about making rosemary-flavored beverages, including a rosemary lemonade. The herb society will sell slices of berry, rosemary and nut cake, too, LaRue said, as well as rosemary garlic bread knots.
Rosemary is a tender perennial in Wichita's planting Zone 6, and most Wichitans will likely have to replace their plants after this winter, Rutherford and LaRue said.
LaRue managed to salvage her rosemary plant by overwintering the container in the law office where she works. LaRue suggests using a regular potting mix without fertilizer when growing rosemary in a container. Most herbs prefer a leaner soil without much fertilizer, except for the heavy feeding basil, LaRue said. In the ground, rosemary does best when planted in a berm or mound of soil. Avoid mulching too close to the crown, or above-ground portion, of the plant since that can encourage rot, LaRue said.
For hardier rosemary varieties that can may make it through winter, try arp or hill hardy, with the latter doing better in Wichita's Zone 6, LaRue said.
Three other go-to varieties to plant locally are barbecue, a more upright variety with thicker stems than can substitute for skewers by just pushing fruit, vegetables or meat right onto the skewer without taking the leaves off; gorizia, which has a more subtle pine flavor and more of a ginger aroma; or Tuscan blue, which has colorful blooms and can be used like the barbecue variety or in topiaries, LaRue said.
Where: Sedgwick County Extension Education Center, 7001 W. 21st St. N., Wichita
When: 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. May 5
What: Free seminars on selecting, planting, maintaining and cooking with herbs; vendors offering herbs, other plants and garden-related items for sale; herb society brunch and lunch sale. The Kansas Grown Farmers Market runs concurrently in the parking lot until noon.
In the Sunflower Room
8:30 a.m.: Rosemary, local herb of the year
9:30 a.m.: Planning your herb garden
11 a.m.: Chef demo with Chef Paul Guerrero from The Ridge at Reflection Ridge
In the demonstration garden
8 a.m.: Composting demo
9 a.m.: Sipping your rosemary
10 a.m.: Growing hops in Kansas
11 a.m.: Flavored syrups with flowers and herbs
11:30 a.m.: Growing herbs on your patio or balcony
Makes: about 6 8-ounce servings
½ cup sugar
6 cups water
6 4-inch sprigs of fresh rosemary
1/2-3/4 cups fresh-squeezed lemon juice
Bring sugar and 2 cups water to boil in a sauce pan. Add rosemary sprigs, cover and remove from heat. Let steep for at least 30 minutes. Strain the syrup into a pitcher. Stir in ½ cup lemon juice and remaining 4 cups water. Taste and add more lemon juice, water or sugar to taste. Chill thoroughly.
Makes: about one 8-ounce serving
3 tablespoons dried hop strobiles (flowers)
1 cup water
1 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
Zest of 3 limes
Heat water to a boil, remove from heat and add hops. Cover and steep for 30 minutes and then strain. Add the hops-infused tea and sugar to a saucepan and gently simmer until the sugar dissolves; don't let it boil. Pour into a pitcher and add the lime juice and zest. Tweak to your taste by adding more water, lime juice or sugar. Chill thoroughly.
Recipes adapted and courtesy of Sharon Rutherford