Someone pinged me via email and asked for some advice on when to harvest his backyard hop crop. Indeed, this has been a hot and dry summer, so how does that impact the harvest schedule? I suspect some other people are wondering the same thing. Here’s how I replied:
Hop harvest will begin in a few days in Oregon’s Willamette Valley (planning to start on the 15th). Then it will probably begin in earnest about a week after that in the Yakima Valley. That comes from my friends in the industry. More or less, right on schedule.
Personally, assuming you’re in Western Washington, I’d keep watering them and hang on for a couple weeks, unless they seem to be drying out. You want the cones to still be moist.
Here’s what I’ve been told by real hop farmers. Exactly when the hops “come ready” is less a matter of heat and dryness than it is a matter of light. The length of daylight and all that. The hotter weather may make them a bit early, but not too much.
The farmers harvest when the cones show a certain amount of moisture, about 75%. I’m not sure how they measure, what kind of instruments they have, but I’ve stood in a hop field with a real hop farmer and warched him pick a single Amarillo cone, crack it open and say, “About five more days.”
When I grew backyard hops in Western Washington I usually found them to be ready around September 1st. Use your best judgement and remember that you do not want them to dry out on the bine.
There are very certainly people out there who know a lot more about this subject, and I don’t pretend to be a botanist, so I’m going to post this little story on the blog and invite comments.
So come on all you experts. Chime in. What do you think? How do you determine when to harvest your backyard hop crop?