Truffles are a delicacy generally found in expensive gourmet shops. It’s a subterranean fungi popular in Europe for centuries. Very few North Americans have ever tried them, but those that have generally come back for more.
Truffles are the fruiting bodies of certain fungi that grow in the soil and roots of certain plants. They develop in varying shapes, generally small round spheres .They sprout below the soils surface, and are not always easy to locate in the wild. In Europe, dogs and on occasion pigs are trained to sniff them out in the the forests.
Truffles have been found in various regions in the US and truffle hunters, as well as commercial growers are fine tuning the methodology to successfully raise this delicate and lucrative crop.
It can take up to six years before an inoculated tree will produce truffles. Even then, it’s hit-and-miss some inoculated trees never produce.
Assuming, you’ve done everything right, and nature cooperates success rates can still be as low as 50%, even if the host roots have been inoculated successfully. SO you can see why the cost of truffles is so high.
In Australia , truffle growing has become quite popular as the video on this page can attest to. New Zealand and other regions of the world are also discovering the truffle.
Modern horticultural advances have made it possible for American gardeners to plant their own truffle orchards. The hardest part is getting the orchard established, once established it requires little maintenance, very little water, no fertilizer, minimal yearly tilling.
The roots of oak or hazelnut saplings are inoculated with truffle spores and then planted. Hazelnut trees are most commonly used to cultivate truffles. The tree will produce nuts above ground, and you can also harvest truffle below the surface.
Oak trees have also been used successfully and some researchers have suggested citrus trees such as Orange may also make an excellent host tree.
To get started, clear an area of competing vegetation, trees, brush and weeds. Soil pH is extremely important . Acceptable soil pH range is between 7.5 and 8.3, 7.9 is optimal. Add lime to the soil if it is acid. [See Measuring and Adjusting Soil pH in Gardens]
The host tree must have an extensive root system before the truffle can be produced. You can also inter-plant other crops, such as grasses and annual herbs while the truffle orchard is being established, however, once established truffles emit a compound that inhibits the growth of other plants.
French truffles do best in slightly alkaline gravelly soil. In the gravelly soil the truffle’s root system will develop horizontally, parallel to the surface, and the and necessary root-fungus relationship is firmly established. Truffles grow near tree roots.
Historically, truffle hunters used pigs or dogs to find their prized truffles. With only a few trees, searching by hand is not a difficult task. Look for a natural die back of weeds and grasses around the tree. Mature truffles emit a compound that kills vegetation on the surface where it’s growing.
The 2 largest Suppliers of Inoculated Truffle Trees in the USA are