How to grow your own truffles!
Posted on August 20 2018
Truffles are an ectomycorrhizal fungus, which means they have evolved to thrive underground in a mutually beneficial, symbiotic relationship with the roots of particular trees. The tree (usually a Hazel or Oak tree) benefits from the truffle increasing its underground surface area, thus bringing extra nutrients from the soil into the tree. In return the tree supplies the truffle fungus with vital nourishment, including precious sugars which the truffle cannot produce because it does not photosynthesise.
The Present Tree's Truffle tree gift is the wonderful Hazel tree carefully inoculated with the truffle fungus. The Hazel is the perfect tree to grow your own truffles because it will thrive in any garden, matures much faster than the Oak and its truffles will ripen in 4+ years. Whereas the slower-growing Oak’s truffle will ripen in 8+ years. The Hazel truffle tree will flourish in a moist, alkaline (pH7-8) soil. As the truffle fungus is native to UK, it will happily grow in most British gardens, especially limestone, chalky soils. An annual dose of Lime (Calcium carbonate) can be added to acidic ground, this can be bought from most garden centres or online shops.
How to care for a Truffle tree
Plant your tree, still in its organic pot so the roots and truffle fungus are not disturbed, in a large (20-30 cm wide) outdoor pot with holes for drainage or in a sunny spot in any garden. Gradually increase the size of your pot every 2 years and add more nutritious compost to allow the roots to grow. Your Hazel truffle tree can be pruned in autumn and may reach a height of 2 metres in 5-10 years, if allowed to grow naturally.
How to forage for Truffles!
When the spores of the truffle mature, the fungus produces aromatic compounds that mimic our feel-good pheromones and smell delicious. Traditionally, pigs and dogs have been used to hunt for the truffles. An alternative is to look out for ‘les mouches à truffes’ the truffle fly which can be spotted hovering directly over the underground nugget when the truffle is perfectly ripe.
Fortunately, hunting for this gourmet delight is much simpler with an individual truffle tree. Just look out for the ‘brûlés’ around your Hazel tree. This ring of bare ground appears when the truffle is mature, it's caused by the mycelium, an underground network that supports the truffle tree’s growth and monopolises the nutrients and water around the tree. In UK and Ireland the ground is usually moist in autumn and as the truffle ripens it often rises, breaking the surface, ready to be discovered!
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