Growing Your Own Truffles
Truffles are among the most prized and expensive natural gourmet items. White truffles usually cost about $1000 to $2000 for a pound, while black truffles cost $300 to $600 for a pound. In 2007, a 3.3 pound white truffle was bought by billionaire Stanley Ho for $330,000. In 1999, a 2.86 white truffle was sold for $212,000.
Why is it so expensive? Because they are very hard to find. Since they are grow underground and among roots of trees, truffle hunters would usually have an assistance of a pig or a truffle-sniffing-dog to find these belowground mushrooms. The time to look and gather truffles is very intensive. Truffles are also low in abundance.
Nowadays, in an attempt to meet the demand for truffles, there are some Americans who are growing black truffles commercially. An example would be a truffle company in North Carolina, the Garland’s Gourmet Mushrooms and Truffles who have been in the truffle business since 1990s.
Although, most truffles could be found in the wild, history showed that they were cultivated during 1800s in France. However, the First World War caused serious damage on the truffle cultivation. Aside from the United States, Australia and New Zealand are also cultivating truffles.
If you are planning to cultivate truffles, then there are several things that you would have to consider.
• Host plants - There are truffle businesses, like the Garland, that do not only buy gourmet mushrooms and truffles, but they also sell inoculated trees to serve as host plants or trees for the mushrooms. They usually sell oaks and hazelnut trees which are inoculated with Black Perigord or Black Burgundy truffle, or whatever variety will be grown.
How are the trees inoculated? The tree seedlings are dipped in mycorrhizal fungi slurry. Given the right conditions and care, the truffles could be harvested in about six to ten years. It is nearly impossible to grow truffles in a greenhouse. Trees are very essential on its growth.
• Soil - Aside from the trees, it is also important to prepare the soil where the trees would be planted. It has been tested the Mid-Atlantic States have reliable soil types for truffle growth. There are times when the solid has to be amended with lime to adjust its alkaline level.
Moisture is important and the place where the tree seedlings would be planted should have adequate irrigation and good drainage. Although moisture is important, standing water would not only cause damage.
• Care - With proper care and maintenance of the seedling, it is possible to harvest a quarter of a pound for each tree. A pound usually costs about $200 dollars, it could vary based on the market condition.
Proper care an maintenance would include maintaining a good irrigation system, keeping the trees with sufficient water. Weed control is also important. To control weed growth, you would need to cultivate, spray and even apply some mulch. Lime treatment, aeration and soil and promoting root growth of the host tree.
When cultivating truffles, it is important to consider and understand that truffle growing would require time, energy and effort. Since it would take a few years before you actually reap the fruit of your efforts, it is important to plan additional sources of income during the early years and seasons when truffles are not abundant.