hop shoot

Organic strawberries, raspberries and blueberries tend to hit the wallet hard. And, you’ll likely shell out a wad of dough for those spring-blooming morel mushrooms. But, setting aside the fruits and fungi, what are the priciest vegetables out there?

Artichokes? Brussels sprouts? Go ahead. Take a guess. What do you think is the world’s most expensive vegetable?

Bet you wouldn’t guess hop shoots. The young shoots of hop plants, which resemble asparagus, are known as one of the most pricey vegetables around. (Although it’s hard to say exactly which vegetable reigns as most expensive, as there’s no international price index to chart the price of vegetables.) However, according to hopshoots.com, a top supplier of hop shoots in the U.K., the first hop shoots of the year sold by auction can reach almost 1,000 euro per kilogram, or about $1,250 per 2.2 pounds. Can’t call that cheap.

Sitting up there on the price scale with the likes of truffles and saffron, hop shoots command a far higher price then even white asparagus.

Hop shoots only emerge in springtime, which perhaps adds to their allure—and expense. The wild young shoots of hop plants surface between March and April. For a short time they can be cut down and eaten, but they’re difficult to both forage in the wild and cultivate as they’re often covered by grass and the debris of winter.

If you do manage to find them however, these spring treats of a vegetable offer a fresh, earthy taste. Completely opposite from hop flowers, hop shoots don’t taste bitter—even in raw form. They taste divine simply steamed and sautéed in butter or sautéed with chives and garlic. In Italy, a traditional dish served in April is risotto di Bruscandoli, or hop shoots risotto.

But, they disappear quickly! Soon after emerging from the ground, hop shoots grow into coarse, rope-like stalks, similar to those of the hop’s cousin, Cannabis. These stalks develop into hop bines (yep bines, not vines), which yield those familiar hop cones used in beer making.

Follow Kirsten on Twitter @kirsten_hudson

image: Fluffymuppet