I was out for a walk with my beloved one day when I found them. It was a sunny afternoon in mid-October, the kind of day that is a gift from the weather gods – one last day of nothing-but-a-tshirt warmth before November starts to chill our bones.
We were walking along the mountain bike trail in the valley below us when I saw them…a green vine twining up a small tree and over to a hydro tower, festooned with the now-familiar shape of hop cones. It was late in the season, and they were brown and papery, but there they were. I managed to snag a few of the lower ones and found a nice citrus aroma under the dry leaf smell when I rubbed them between my palms.
I mentioned the find to a few people, and then mostly forgot about it. I’d think of the plant when it was least possible to harvest or dig up a rhizome, like the middle of summer or on a blustery winter day.
Fast forward to last Saturday. I was part of a beer panel at the Ontario Fermentation Fest in Picton, and got to talking beer afterwards with likeminded individuals, as one does. I was talking hops, and mentioned the find to a friend of a friend. Turns out he planted them! No, not feral at all, just a little wild after a guerrilla gardening experiment. Apparently there’s a mother plant a little further west…time to do more exploring.
I went back to the site the next day, and found things a little changed. The little tree had been cut down, the trail was now a wider dirt access road to the hydro station and there was nothing growing up tower. It looks like I waited too long to get back.
I poked around the tall weeds near where I remember the tree being, and found a patch of stinging nettles for my troubles. As i was cursing and flapping my now sore hand around, is was that there in the middle of the nettles hung a few cones. They hadn’t been able to climb, and the bugs had eaten the leaves to lace, but the plant was still alive.
Have to go back in a few weeks to check on them. Going to bring some gloves this time.