While asparagus and fiddlehead ferns bask in the spring produce spotlight, another vegetable is also ripe for consumption at the same time of year: the hops plant.
And beer isn't the only beneficiary; forward-thinking hops farmers and brewers have pickled their crop of hops shoots by plunging them into a briny, fragrant solution.
The resulting snack, long a delicacy in beer-crazy Belgium, is a cross between pickled asparagus and pickled beans. And although the last hops of the season have already been harvested, these places allow you to get your fix any time of year.
At Cascade Brewing in Portland, Oregon, the team harvests its own hops shoots and will serve them pickled alongside charcuterie and cheese plates at its new tasting room, Cascade Brewery Barrel House, which opens next month.
Bob's Keg and Cork in Yakima, Washington, uses pickled hops in place of pepperoni as a pizza topping. Curious drinkers can also sample them as a solo snack at Naked City Brewery & Taphouse in Seattle, where the "naked" pickled hops from Puterbaugh Farms in Washington make the perfect finger food to accompany a pint.
At home, try using pickled hops anywhere you might normally apply a pickled asparagus spear--in, say, a Bloody Mary or speared to a square of sharp cheddar.
Or, of course, with a beer.