Currently, the truffle is considered by many in the world of gastronomy the equivalent of diamonds in the world of jewelry. These valued mushrooms have been appreciated by all kinds of cultures since the time of the Greek philosophers and have been consumed for their exquisite taste and for their revitalizing and aphrodisiac effects. However, this prized delicacy is not always easy to find and, depending on the area, may not be easy to grow.
If you want to learn more and know how to grow truffles , keep reading us in this article in which we explain everything about this much appreciated mushroom.
What are truffles and what is truffle farming
Truffles are a whole genus of fungi , specifically from the Tuberaceae family . They are fungi that cannot survive on their own, and they need to associate with tree roots in a symbiotic relationship . There are around 40 species of truffles, but only four of them are popular and valued as cooking ingredients. These are the Tuber magnatum or Piedmont white truffle , the Tuber melanosporum or black truffle , the Tuber brumale or winter truffle and the Tuber aestivum or summer truffle .
Of all these, the most common cultivation in truffles and farms is the black truffle, highly appreciated in France and Spain, although the most economically valued is the white, which can be priced at several thousand euros per kilogram. Truffle farming , for its part, is precisely the set of techniques and knowledge that are applied to the cultivation or planting of truffles , since it is a very specialized crop.
How to grow truffles – basic tips
The cultivation of truffles requires many care and requirements:
- Host plant: the most common are holm oak, oak, hazelnut and kermes oak.
- Climate: marked winters and summers, without excess rainfall.
- Land: with great drainage and, if possible, with a slope. The pH should be between 7.5 and 8.5.
How to choose host plant for truffles
As a mycorrhizal fungus , the truffle needs to associate with the roots of some trees to develop.
Choosing a tree for truffles that is suitable according to our circumstances is essential to achieve a good crop and that is not very complicated. As mentioned above, the most used species are holm oak, oak, hazelnut and kermes oak . Of all of them, the holm oak is by far the most popular, since being a slow-growing tree, the plant develops at the same rate as the black truffle fungus, the most common to cultivate. Hazelnuts were used a lot in the past, but they have gradually fallen into disuse.
Climate to grow truffles
The black truffle grows best in a Mediterranean type climate or similar. Hot summers are necessary, as well as winters marked but not extreme, without frosts in autumn and with winters without long periods below -10 ºC. It is also important that spring has a good amount of rain . In fact, natural truffles tend to have a rainfall of between 425 and 900 mm.
Truffles increase in size in summer , so this period is critical for their proper development. Similarly, intense cold in early autumn or excessively heavy rains that puddle the land can be especially damaging.
Land to grow truffles
Truffles show a great variety of terrains in which they can develop, but they all share some general points. These are the characteristics of the land to grow truffles :
- Drainage is basic in truffles. Without good drainage, the soil will puddle from irrigation or rain, and fungi will not grow, as they need moisture but not puddling.
- Some unevenness will also help. This makes the water provided by irrigation or rains moisten the upper layer of earth without ever flooding it, since the bulk of it continues downhill.
- The pH should be between 7.5 and 8.5, depending on the variety of truffle we want to grow.
- It is important that the soil has carbonates.
How to prepare the ground for growing truffles
Once confirmed that our climate and soil are suitable for the cultivation of this fungus, we can proceed to prepare the ground to grow truffles :
- Between 2 and 6 months before the planting of the mycorrhized trees, the first thing will be to plow or remove the soil to a certain depth to break up the upper layer of soil, leaving it more aerated, loose and improving its drainage.
- If you are planting in a small space and come across large stones, try removing them or, if possible, chopping them to make them smaller. Keep in mind that if you collect with a dog, which is a common practice, it can damage its legs with the sharp stones when digging.
- Then plant the mycorrhized trees . The planting technique will be that of the host species in question. Water and take special care of the trees during their early years, which is when they are most vulnerable.
- Starting with the second season, it is necessary to dig a perimeter around each tree and fill it with gravel to avoid harmful fungi.
- From the fifth year onwards, add truffle spores around the roots to emulate the action of wild animals. If you are in a natural environment, protect your truffles from wild boars or other predators, which can locate them at a great distance.
How to find truffles to harvest
Humans cannot detect the smell of buried truffles, but this is not the case for many animals. For this reason, they are often used to allow us to locate and harvest them. If you wonder how to find truffles to harvest them , these are the animals that can help us the most:
- Trained dogs are a great option, and their great intelligence makes it easy to teach them to locate them.
- Pigs have traditionally been used for this as well, but they cannot be taught as easily as dogs and they look for the truffle to eat themselves, so it is necessary to muzzle them to avoid this. Therefore, it is more advisable to teach a dog, since it will not be necessary to put a muzzle on it.
- There are also those who use Suilla gigantea , a type of fly that spawns on truffles, but locating them this way is a much more complicated procedure.
The harvest season will usually be between December and early March .