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Hey, Want to Grow Your Own Truffles?

post #1 of 6
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Hey, Want to Grow Your Own Truffles?
By JILL HUNTING


This year, skip the master gardening class about how to keep white flies out of your orange trees. Forget the annual pilgrimage to the nursery for zucchini starts. Plant your own truffle trees and grow something your friends will actually want.

That's what I've done, with the help of a truffle grower, Mother Nature and all the patience I can muster.

The most prized truffle varieties are the white truffle of Alba, Italy (Tuber magnatum pico), and the Perigord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum). Some say the white truffle will grow nowhere but Italy; others, such as truffle expert James Trappe, claim there are suitable growing conditions in other areas--including, perhaps, the Willamette Valley of Oregon. As for American-grown black truffles, they are already a commercial crop. Franklin Garland, proprietor of a mushroom and truffle company in North Carolina (and now worldwide at www. garlandtruffles.com), has been selling fresh domestic black truffles since the late '90s. Garland's Gourmet Mushrooms & Truffles also sells hazelnut tree seedlings whose roots have been treated with the famous fungus.

For $1,400, you can buy 100 seedlings, and, in six to 10 years, with proper conditions and care, you could have truffles at a rate of a quarter pound per tree. You could eat them, or you could sell them to Garland--he pays $200 per pound or more, depending on market conditions--or to the buyer of your choice. Last winter, the preeminent truffle company, Urbani Truffles & Caviar (www.urbani.com; (800) 281-2330), was retailing fresh black truffles for $800 to $1,400 per pound.

Before reaching for your calculator and concluding that you've come up with a way to finance your children's college education, consider that truffles are temperamental. Charles Lefevre, a doctoral candidate in mycology at Oregon State University and another seller of truffle seedlings (his Web site, www.truffletrees.com is still under construction), says that parts of California are perfect for truffles, but success rates can be as low as 50%, even when the host roots have been inoculated successfully.

He raises other cautions. Truffles like soil that is alkaline and chalky, which may require adding lime to your backyard. Hearing this, and having just ordered my truffle seedlings, I looked upon my navel orange tree and feared for its life. Lime. Isn't that the killer stuff we sprinkled behind the tents at Girl Scout camp?

A simple way to test the alkalinity, or pH, of your soil is to mix a few spoonfuls of dirt with an equal amount of ordinary white vinegar in a jar with a lid. Shake the mixture and remove the lid. If you hear a soft fizzing, your soil is moderately alkaline. The more it fizzes, the higher the pH. A pH of 7 is neutral; truffles like 8 or higher. If your shortcut pH test doesn't discourage you, ask your local County Extension office if they will perform a soil test. If you still want to proceed, order your seedlings and plant them as directed.

"Your orange tree may be able to handle it," Lefevre told me. "Oranges are often grown in fairly arid climates that tend to have alkaline soil. Give the truffle trees as much space as possible from other trees, and gradually expand the limed area so that it takes a few years to get to the orange's roots."

Black truffles occur naturally between latitudes of 40 and 47 degrees north, between 300 and 3,000 feet above sea level, but given the right conditions, they will grow farther south. Though the Los Angeles Basin may be too far south for the elegant tuber, Lefevre says higher elevations in central California may be suitable. Northern California has already proven hospitable to truffles.

Californians have been interested in truffle cultivation for decades, but Lefevre is seeing new signs of truffle fever. Two months ago he was writing his dissertation when one prospector got his name, drove 800 miles to find him and appeared with a list of questions.

When Oregon wasabi grower Roy Carver was scouting land for a large truffle orchard, the Napa Valley was on his list. In the end, he chose a site in the Texas hill country, which one of his new neighbors described as "some of the sorriest country in the United States." Both locations are well south of the truffle's natural home.

Once you've selected a site, amended the soil and planted your tree seedlings, the next steps are to prune and weed as they grow. Then comes the hard part: waiting. In time, telltale truffle "marks," or bulges, may appear around the tree in late summer, indicating you may have mature truffles in four to five months.

While you're waiting, you'll have to discourage other vegetation in the vicinity, with the exception of other hazelnuts. Acid-loving plants such as camellias and crape myrtles will suffer if they grow too close.

Eventually, if you've planted correctly, tended properly and been blessed with the right combination of sunshine, rain and moderate temperatures, you'll find yourself popular in December and January. You'll have the secret ingredient for a turkey stuffing your guests will swoon over, and your homemade truffle-infused oils and sauces will be on everyone's Christmas list.

If you've done your best but get no truffles, you can always eat the hazelnuts. Better yet, find a good recipe for hazelnut-filled chocolate truffles.
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.

- Desiderius Erasmus
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post #2 of 6
Okay, so first I have to grow a tree - and then wait HOW many years?!!!!

thanks, but no - i have grown my own portobellos and shitakes, though!
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post #3 of 6
I heard a mycologist speak on cultivating truffles last May....8-10 years and it's not assured. North Carolina has a more productive site than Texas.....I have a crazy friend who thinks wild ones grow in Mo.
Noone is rushing out to grow truffles or invest that's for sure.
cooking with all your senses.....
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cooking with all your senses.....
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post #4 of 6
Isa, LOL!

The Seed Catalog (Joke, truth can be stranger than fiction.)

New this Spring from SHOW-ME NURSERIES
P.O. Box 12345
Homily, MO 01011

"HOLY TLAQUEPAQUE" Hot Pepper. This is positively the hottest pepper we have ever seen or heard of. Small cherry-sized peppers cause severe blistering with mere skin contact, and eating just one can render the most seasoned pepper-eaters unable to speak or even swallow for several days. This is not an ornamental pepper - growth tends to be rangy and tall, with sparse pale leaves. To tell the truth, we couldn't say what you would do with this pepper. But they sure are hot. Pepper "HOLY TLAQUEPAQUE" - .50 per packet.

ANT TREE - Myrmecodium, with ant colonies. An unusual plant with a swollen stubby trunk from which the flowers and fruit come directly. Your friends will want to take a closer look, but imagine their surprise when they find themselves covered with vicious stinging ants! Good conversation starter. The tree is not difficult to grow and propagate, but we must ask a higher price because the queen ants are so difficult to smuggle past the border agents. ANT TREE - ea. $70.00 Ant cultures shipped seperately.

New Plant Collection Offers:

"Barrier Garden" This is a collection of all the most beautiful and unusual plants with stinging or irritating hairs. Includes 5 varieties of nettle, including the famous "creeping nettle" of Venezuela, which spreads quickly by underground runners, Devil's Club from the Pacific Northwest, a beautiful shurb-small tree covered with irritating spines, several species of Loasa, and of course, the famous Australian Nettle Tree, a brush of which can make a man writhe in pain for days. Plant this collection instead of an electric fence to keep plant thieves away from your prized items. $30.00

"New Roses" collection. The biggest and gaudiest of the new hybrid tea roses, many with no irritating fragrance to mask your own perfume, natural scent, or barbecue smoke. Some of these varieties combine up to five colors in one bloom. A few examples:

"LIBERACE" - This rose throws up candelabra-like spikes of large shining blooms of green, red, and hot pink, with crystalline sparkling spots.

"ROSEANNE" - A white and red striped *big* fully double rose which does have a slight scent of old beer.

"SCREAMING QUEEN" - Lavender and magenta of course, with red flecks and lots of other colors too. Developed from a seedling of "Liberace," this rose has an interesting scent, somewhere between "Obscession" and "Aramis."

"MADONNA" Tall thin plants with black shiny leather-like blooms. Pistils protrude far beyond the rest of the floral parts. Will hybridize with anything. $60.00
post #5 of 6
CCHiu - I love it!:bounce:
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post #6 of 6

Isa

 

I live in Northern Ontario, land of winter and snow and many of woe, at 46.5° N. I have all the patience and determination in the world but would truffles stand a chance against winter (in your opinion)?

 

Terry

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