Black Truffle Farm: The fruiting body of a underground species of genus tuber is the truffles. It grows among tree roots of certain trees. In exchange for carbohydrates they provide nutrients for plants.
Edible ones are common in haute cuisine attract premium price in markets. Truffle farming is capital intensive and very challenging. It takes minimum of 5 to 10 years before harvesting the fungus. The business requires patience, farm maintenance and knowledge.
Dispersal is attributed to many animal vectors that feed on them. Common vectors are chipmunks, flying squirrels, birds, deer and rodents. They are eaten by the animals and go through the digestive tracks. The dormant ascospores germinate when the host plant roots exudes what they need.
- flying squirrels
- wild pigs
They are served raw over warm food or used as stuffing. It is an ingredient in dishes found in truffle vodka, oil.
The fungi is difficult to grow with unpredictable results. However over the years many people have tried to produce them. A Frenchman Pierre II Mauleon in 1790 took acorns from oak trees known to produce truffles and achieved growth several years later.
Truffleculture was also achieved in France in 1808. Best soil, climatic conditions for production are limestone soil and temperate climate.
Different types of edible ones are found in specific regions of the world. We have the tuber magnatum or white truffle found in Montferrat, Langhe areas of Italy. Others are burgundy (Europe), Tuber borchii-whitish truffle, black truffle common to Hazelnut and Oak trees.
- White (tuber magnatum)
- Whitish(Tuber borchii)
- Black Truffle
You need huge funds to run a successful black truffle farm. However obtaining loan facility is challenging due to the uncertain nature of the enterprise, duration. Regular long term loans require collateral, guarantors, fixed interest rate. You will have to source funds from target savings, friends, family and venture capitalists.
Find out zoning formula in your country, licensing and permits. Register the farm as a limited liability entity, get tax identification number.
Steps to Truffle Farming
- Grow them in temperate climate
- Select pasture property without tress
- Appropriate land mass minimum of one acre
- Raise soil pH to optimal soil condition
- Select hazelnut tree sapling or oak tree sampling
- Inoculate-Dip root system in black truffle puree
- Plant tree sapling in soil
- Irrigate and water regularly
- Property maintenance and management
- Let farm stand for 5-10 years
- Get trained truffle dog or pig
- Start harvesting
How to grow them
Trees where Truffles Grow
The only way to grow them is to plant specific trees where the fungus grows. Truffle is a fungus that grows at the base of certain trees. They are found near the root system and form a symbiotic relationship.
Make sure the choice of tree is common to selected geographical region for them to thrive. Trees that produce them are Oak, Hazel and Beech tree. Others are Birch tree, Polar tree, Pine tree and Hornbeam trees.
- Polar tree
Find Landed Property
1. Find pasture property ideal for certain trees that accommodate truffles. Make sure the land is bare without competing trees. Ideal location is temperate climate perfect for choice of tree you intend planting.
A large land space will accommodate more product so purchase several acres of land for better profitability. Secure the land from trespassers, rodents, pollutants or contaminants.
2. Work the Soil
Hire a professional to prepare the soil to right pH level. Best conditions for truffle production is soil pH of 7.8 to 8.3. Conduct regular soil sampling until pH level is ideal for the fungus. Work 3 feet of soil then add 20 tons lime per acre.
3. Select Tree Saplings
Selecting the right tree sapling for your farm is very important. You have a choice of trees based on your geographical location, soil type, and climatic conditions. Tree where truffles grow are Hornbeam, Polar, Pine, Beech, Hazel, Oak.
4. Watering and Irrigation
Make sure the pH level is consistent while watering the farm. Put in place an irrigation system to handle the farms water requirements. 150 tree need about 1.5 inches of water every week.
5. Inoculate and Colonize Roots
The next step is to inoculate and colonize the roots. Use about 150 on-foot-tree saplings then dip in root system in black truffle puree. Plant an average of 100 to 150 saplings on each acre of land.
Planting thousands of trees is labor intensive, backbreaking. You need to use machinery like tractors and hire direct labor. Make sure the trees are properly spaced to allow fast growth of tree and fungus. The type of tree will determine the longevity of the farm.
7. Farm Management and Maintenance
Farm management is also labor intensive and challenging. Management includes maintaining pH level by adding lime, mulching, fertilization, weeding. Other considerations are watering, irrigation, trimming. Check forwater, irrigation regularly
It takes about 5 to 10 years for them to grow. Before you harvest look for signs at the base of the trees or moss. They release natural herbicide that turn grass brownish. Use trained dogs to locate them underground and carefully dig them out.
Truffle Dog, Hogs
Because the fungi is underground the farmer needs a trained animal to locate them. The best animals for the job are trained dogs or hogs
Characteristics of a good truffle hog is a keen sense of smell love for truffles. The dogs are easier to control well trained with keen sense of smell. The disadvantage with hogs is their tendency to eat them once found.
Price of Truffles
The market is restricted to high-end restaurants, top chefs and hotels. It grows underground and requires specialized animals to dig them out. The taste is unique with amazing flavor with average sized one weighing from 30 grams to 65 grams.
They sell from $30 to $80 while a record breaking 3 pound black truffle sold for $2500 dollars. According to CBS News a pound of European white was sold for $3,600.