The Everyday Lore Project

6 September 2020 – Hops

6 September 2020 – Hops

Hops smell like foot fungus. Ripe, yeasty, vomit inducing foot fungus. Or at least that was my first impression. Then I opened the bag and thankfully something much more fruity and hay-y took over. It’s the annual Faversham Hop Festival this weekend, or it would have been. It’s also hop harvest time, so I thought now would be a good moment for some beer flower action.

That first whiff of hops had completely put me off my original idea of making a hop pillow, as it’s said that hops helps with insomnia. This claim felt very counterproductive given there was no way I’d be able to sleep with that unholy pong slipped into my pillowcase. Besides, I’d already tried quite a lot to help me climb the wooden hill to Bedfordshire during this project.

But then the smell turned out to be less offensive, and I have had some pretty awful dreams recently, so I found a bag, tipped in a load of leaves, some lavender I collected along with the purple toadflax, a pinch of rose petals last used to make soap, and a sprig of dill. It should have been dill seeds but I didn’t have any. All the smells seemed to cancel each other out leaving just a vague floral pleasantness, which is now tucked into my pillowcase. This blend is apparently particular to averting nightmares, so we shall see. 

And then I got on with what had been my Plan B, a hop garland, as it’s said that a garland of hops strung in the house will bring good luck. As I only had a bag of dried hops, separated from the vines, it was all a bit Heath Robinson. Picking through the bag, I found a handful of whole cones which I then proceeded to sew onto a length of appropriate looking string. A couple did have stalks bent over like hooks, but they kept falling off, so I ended up sewing them on too. It wasn’t particularly demanding work, just a bit fiddly stabbing the needle through a load of overlapping dried leaves. 

While I obviously find it very charming, in comparison with other hop garlands, mine could be mistaken for being a little mean spirited. It looks more like a string of mouldering fairy lights than a joyous celebration of the harvest, but there’s only so much one can do on a sunny Sunday afternoon when handling a sedative. It’s now up in my kitchen where fingers crossed, it will bring luck to my cooking.

Veg Vig
Last Sunday my mustard looked like this:

On Thursday it looked like this:

On Friday it looked like this:

And today it looks like this:

And it tastes proper mustardy, so I now want to grow everything in my spice jars.

Oh, and here are the mangelwurzels looking all saucy too:


Baker, M. (2019) Discovering The Folklore of Plants, Oxford, Shire Publications

Cooper, Q. and Sullivan, P. (1994) Maypoles, Martyrs & Mayhem: 366 Days of British Myths, Customs & Eccentricities, London, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc

Culpeper (1995) Culpeper’s Complete Herbal, Ware, Wordsworth Editions Ltd

McVicar, J. (1994) Jekka’s Complete Herb Book, London, Kyle Cathie Limited

Roud, S. (2006) The English Year: A Month-By-Month Guide To The Nation’s Customs and Festivals, From May Day to Mischief Night, London, Penguin Books

Vickery, R. (2019) Vickery’s Folk Flora, An A-Z of the Folklore and Uses of British and Irish Plants, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson

Published by Liza Frank

Author of My Celebrity Boyfriend. Obsessed with hula hooping, sons of preachermen and fresh dates, sometimes all at the same time. Curator of Folklore Agony and The Everyday Lore Project.

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