I have a first-year Columbus plant that has produced what appears to be a respectable yield. I've been picking cones periodically, trying to gauge the right moment for the big harvest. (It's my first year, too, so I'm flying blind a little bit.)
Tonight I cut open a cone and found, for the first time, black spots on the petals. Can anyone tell me what this is? Mold? Some other disease? The waste left by some pest? (The bines have a fair number of bugs living on them--lots of spiders, aphids, ladybugs, and another funny spider/beetle looking thing that I can't find in the books.)
Another question--at harvest time, I might not be able to tell how many cones look like this on the inside, without cutting each one open. Let's say that most or all do have this black stuff inside. Would you dry them anyway and brew with them, or should they go in the compost?