Currently, the truffle is considered by many in the world of gastronomy to be the equivalent of diamonds in the world of jewelry. These prized 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 precious delicacy is not always easy to find and, depending on the area, it may not be easy to grow. If you want to learn more and know how to grow truffles, keep reading us in this EcologyGreen article in which we explain everything about this much-loved fungus.
Truffles are a genus of fungi, specifically from the Tuberaceae family. They are fungi that cannot survive on their own and 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 white truffle from Piedmont, the Tuber melanosporum or black truffle, the Tuber brumate 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 prized in France and Spain, although the most economically valued is the white truffle, which can be priced at several thousand euros per kilogram. Truffle farming, on the other hand, is precisely the set of techniques and knowledge that are applied to the cultivation or planting of truffles, since it is a highly specialized crop.
The cultivation of the truffle requires numerous cares and requirements:
Host plant: the most common are holm oak, oak, hazelnut, and kermes oak.
Climate: marked winters and summers, without excessive rainfall.
Land: with great drainage and, if possible, sloping. The pH should be between 7.5 and 8.5.
As mycorrhizal fungus that it is, the truffle needs to associate with the roots of some trees to develop. Learn more about What are mycorrhizae and their types in this other post from EcologíaVerde.
Choosing a tree for truffles that is appropriate depending on our circumstances is essential to achieve good cultivation and that it is not very complicated. As mentioned above, the most widely used species are 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 grow. In the past hazelnuts were used a lot, but they have gradually fallen into disuse.
Black truffle grows best in a Mediterranean-type or similar climate. Hot summers are necessary, as well as marked but not extreme winters, 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 their size in summer, so this period is critical for their proper development. Likewise, the intense cold in early autumn or the excessively heavy rains that puddle the soil can be especially damaging.
Land for growing 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 in the face of irrigation or rain. And the fungi will not grow, since they need moisture but not waterlogging.
- Some unevenness will also help. This makes the water provided by irrigation or rains moisten the upper layer of soil without ever flooding it since the bulk of it continues downhill.
- The pH must be between 7.5 and 8.5, depending on the variety of truffles that we want to grow.
- It is important that the soil has carbonates.
Once confirmed that our climate and soil are suitable for the cultivation of this fungus. We can move on to preparing the ground to grow truffles :
- Between 2 and 6 months, before mycorrhizal trees are planted, the first thing will be to plow or remove the soil at a certain depth to break the upper layer of soil, leaving it more airy, loose and improving its drainage.
- If you are planting in a small space and you 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, you can damage your legs with sharp stones when digging.
- Next, plant the mycorrhized trees. The planting technique will be the usual one for the host species in question. Here you can learn in a generic way How to plant a tree step by step. He waters and cares especially for trees during their early years, which is when they are most vulnerable.
- Starting from 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 on, 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 a long-distance away.
Humans cannot detect the smell of buried truffles, but this is not the case for many animals. For this reason, many times they are 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 high 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 truffles to eat themselves, so it is necessary to muzzle them to avoid it. Therefore, it is more advisable to teach a dog, since it will not be necessary to muzzle it.
- There are also those who use the Suilla gigantea, a type of fly that spawns on truffles. But locating them in this way is a much more complicated procedure.
The harvest season will usually be between December and the beginning of March.