What are truffles?
Truffles are fruiting bodies (aka spore producing organs) of the fungi family ‘Ascomycota’. Functionally, they are pretty much like mushrooms, except they grow under the soil. The main biological function of a truffle is to spread spores, which in turn gives rise to new offspring.
How are truffles grown?
Truffles use their unique aroma to attract ‘fungivores’ that enjoy snacking on them. In the Northern Hemisphere, these animals include small mammals like mice, squirrels and rabbits. In the Southern Hemisphere, the main truffle enthusiasts are rat-kangaroos, armadillos and meerkats.
Foraged vs farmed truffles
Truffles need to be recovered (foraged) from under the soil. Traditionally, this was done with help from pigs. The aroma and taste of truffles is often described as musky, earthy, and pungent, and can be attributed to the pheromone androstanol and other volatile compounds.
Because of their high value, the possibility to cultivate truffles has always been a topic of much interest in different parts of the world. Today, only a handful of truffle farms exist. Farmers grow truffles by inoculating the roots of saplings with truffle spores, then harvesting the truffles in 6 to 7 years. This technique was first recorded in 1969. However, growing truffles requires a complex combination of appropriate weather conditions, soil chemistry, and a bit of luck to grow successfully. As a result, the yields from truffle cultivation remain uncertain and can prove a risky investment to farmers.
Truffle farming, or truffle farming, is the cultivation of mycorrhized seedlings on suitable soil, propagated where possible under the same natural conditions, to pick truffles as prescribed and with the assistance of dogs. Planted seedlings are suitably disinfected in sterile and sterile environments, creating a symbiotic relationship between the parent plant and the fungus. The results are comparable to what happens in the wild, as the truffles grown are of exactly the same quality. Indeed, thanks to the care of the soil and irrigation of the beds, the cultivated truffles are usually rounder and larger, and therefore are more prized in the market. Known for their distinctive aroma and radiant flavor, they are one of the most prized ingredients in cooking. They are also known to be very expensive. Up to $10,000 per kilogram
Harvesting the Truffles
1. Wait to harvest until the trees are at least 5 years old. Expect to wait about 5 years to harvest your first truffles. Some truffles may be ready for harvest as early as 3 years after planting or not until 10 years after planting, but 5 years is the average.
Avoid digging into the base of your trees before the truffles are ready. You may end up damaging the growing truffles and losing profit as a result.
2. Plan to harvest in the winter. Your truffles should be ready to harvest at the beginning of winter. Wait for the temperatures to drop and then check to see if any truffles are ready for harvest.
Plan to harvest in early winter before the ground starts to freeze. If you wait too long it may be difficult to dig up the truffles.
3. Watch for dead grass at the base of the tree as a sign of growth. The grass will look like it has been burnt right around the base of a tree that has truffles growing underneath it. This is because the fungus is killing off the other plants in the area around the tree.
The dead grass around the base of the tree is called the “brulee.”
4. Consider training a dog to find truffles. A well-trained dog can make harvesting truffles much easier for you. You can train the dog to find, dig up, and bring you the truffles. Use positive reinforcement to teach your dog to find truffles and bring them to you. For example, every time your dog retrieves a truffle, make sure to offer lots of praise and a treat.
You can also use a female pig to find truffles for you, but you have to watch the pig closely when they find a truffle because they will eat it.
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Video resource: Noel’s Farm