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We crossed the border into Kent earlier this week, the first county to grow hops in Tudor times and still the main producer of hops in Britain. We rounded the corner and I snapped this pic through the windshield.

I don’t know how they do it now, but the hop bines (those tall strings of hops) were originally hung up to the overhead wires by men on great tall stilts.

Then, at harvest time, whole families of Londoners would come down by train to pick them. They worked long hours for slave wages, even the littlest had jobs, and lived in these godawful leaky shacks on the farm. They regarded it as a holiday in the country, with pay.

A local person in my friend group remembers the hop picking.

All around Kent, Sussex and Surrey, you still find oast houses (also called hop kilns) where the hops were dried. Green hops were spread on perforated floors in those round towers and fires were built beneath. The conical hat, called a cowl, had a little sail stuck on the side to make it turn in the wind.

Nearly all the oasts have been converted to housing now, and very posh and desirable houses they are, too.

Oh, I know much, much more about hop picking. I could bore you for hours. It’s one of the topics we have extensively documented at work.


Comment from Some Vegetable
Time: August 23, 2023, 10:12 pm

That’s a beautiful picture and a fascinating story… I’d love to have you talk to us for hours about it.

Comment from Durnedyankee
Time: August 23, 2023, 10:46 pm


Comment from EA
Time: August 23, 2023, 10:50 pm

Thirded. I have a question-Will hops actually make you drowsy. Should I get some for a hops pillow to help with my insomnia?

Comment from Uncle Badger
Time: August 24, 2023, 7:55 am

Hello EA, while Stoaty is labouring in the hopyard, er, vineyard, er, chasing runnybabbits, I can tell you that hop pillows are one of those folk remedies that are constantly being dredged up over here. Whether they actually work or not is very individual but some people do swear by them. Apparently, there is a close botanical relationship between hops and cannabis (they’re actually in the same plant family), so it wouldn’t be surprising if hops had some psychoactive effects. Insomnia is terrible so it has to be worth a try. If you do, please let us know how you get on.

Comment from Becca
Time: August 25, 2023, 3:29 pm

Somerset Maugham in “Of Human Bondage” (1914) wrote of going hop picking. One of my favorite books.

Comment from Rich Rostrom
Time: August 28, 2023, 12:06 am

I’ve homebrewed off and on for over 40 years. Some of my most successful brews included Kent Finishing Hops.

Comment from Tim Carlson
Time: August 28, 2023, 2:45 am

Okay, I want a hops pillow now.
I was going to ask – how does it smell, being in the hops fields?

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