A Statement of Purpose

Since 2012 I have been responsible for
the garden at the Pry House Field Hospital Museum on Antietam National Battlefield. The Pry House garden began as a 19th century style medicinal and kitchen garden, including medicinal plants, herbs, and vegetables. As close as possible, these plants mirrored those available to the Pry Family in the 1860s, meaning heirloom varieties. Since then, the garden has transformed to focus exclusively on medicinal plants, becoming an exhibit of the flora that was employed by military and civilian caregivers in the Civil War Era.

I am strictly an amateur, with no real experience in growing a garden. The purpose of this blog is to document my experiences as I learn by doing. It is anything but authoritative and I welcome any comments and advice for a greenhorn. Please be kind!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Healthful Hops and Historic Ales

The National Museum of Civil War Medicine is currently in partnership with Brewer's Alley, an excellent craft brewery in Frederick, Maryland, to produce a series of traditional beers with historic recipes in commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War. We released our first beer in September with Antietam Ale, an English-style pale ale. Our second beer, Proclamation Porter, premiered last month to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, signed January 1, 1863. The third beer in the series will debut next month, First Draught, in commemoration of the first military draft in U.S. history. I confess that I am a beer snob, but have thoroughly enjoyed Proclamation Porter and am very excited for First Draught, which will be a Belgian dubbel-style ale.

"I love beer!" you may be thinking, "but what does it have to do with a medicinal and kitchen garden?" Plenty! One of the fundamental ingredients in every beer is hops. Hops are the female flowers, or seed cones, of the Humulus Lupulus, a climbing, leafy, perennial plant found throughout the world. Hops have been a traditional part of brewing since at least the early Middle Ages because they act as a natural stabilizer and preservative. They are more important today because of the various bitter, tangy, floral, and fruity notes that different hop varieties will lend to beer when properly applied.

Last spring, I introduced a hop bine to the Pry Garden, and it was a great success! In its first year, it grew to nearly 10 feet and produced a great crop of lovely, fragrant hops. I was really tickled because I had never seen hops growing before, let alone grown them myself! This year they should grow even larger and more productive. 

I don't grow hops in the Pry Garden because we have any plans for brewing beer at Pry House; we will leave that to the professionals at Brewers Alley! In the 19th century, hops were also used in medicine. Historically and in modern times, hops have been used to treat depression, anxiety, insomnia, and other related conditions. Hops were, and still are, also used to stimulate appetite and to treat symptoms of menopause.

In the 19th century, hops were used for an even wider assortment of medicinal applications. Internally, hops were often used as a treatment for coughs and fevers. Externally, they were applied in poultices to boils, swelling, and bruises. During the Civil War, hops were in demand by the Confederate States Medical Department, as limited resources drove medical purveyors to seek alternative herbal medicines.
In March 1862, the office of Confederate Surgeon General Samuel Preston Moore published a guide to collecting and applying medicinal herbs of the South. It included an entry on hops:
                         HUMULUS LUPULUS-(Hop.)
        Sex. Syst. Dioceia, Pentand. Nat. Or. Urtieaceae. (Perennial.)
        The strobiles officinal. Vine climbing. Found abundantly in the
western sections of the Confederate States, along the banks of the
Mississippi and Missouri rivers. Strobiles to be collected in autumn,
when at their maturity. Tonic, and moderate narcotic. Infusion -
Hops,1 oz.; boiling water, 1 pint. Dose, 2 fluidounces 2 or 3 times
a day. Tincture - Hops, finely broken, 5 oz.; diluted alcohol, 2 pints.
Macerate for 14 days, stirring frequently. Dose, 1 to 3 fluidrachms.
Tincture of lupulin preferable. Dose, 1 or 2 fluidrachms.

Francis Porcher, in Resources of the Southern Fields and Forests of 1863, wrote of Humulus Lupulus:

This plant is certainly possessed of some narcotic power. According to Dr. Latham, an infusion of it is a good substitute for laudanum.It is employed in doses of one and a half drachms in allaying the distressing symptoms of phthisis[consumption or tuberculosis]. It augments the secretions, removes pain and irritability, and induces sleep... It is thought to a specific in removing asthmatic pains, without increasing the secretions... It is given with good effect as a stomachic,* in appetency and weakness of the digestive organs... Much use is made of the hop poultice in allaying pain, applied over the part...

*A Stomachic is a medicine is one that serves to aid the stomach, improving its function and increasing appetite

Shameless Plug:
If you want to try the Civil War Beer Series firsthand, it is available at many regional spirit shops and on tap at Brewer's Alley. First Draught will make its debut at a special happy hour event at Brewer's Alley on March 5th from 4 to 6 PM! No cost! No registration! Free giveaways! Great conversations about beer and history!

Check it out on Facebook!
First Draught Happy Hour

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