Growing truffles can be both rewarding and very profitable. But what do you need to know before starting?
This guide to truffle farming will give any aspiring truffle farmer a great place to start.
Is It True That Truffles Cannot Be Farmed?
It is not true. While they have always grown in the wild, truffles have also been successfully farmed for centuries.
Over the past two decades, new scientific techniques have bought truffle farming into the modern age. Today truffle trees are inoculated as saplings with the truffle fungi. After a couple of years scientists can say with a high degree of accuracy which trees will produce truffles, and which won’t.
In years gone by truffle farmers would simply grow the right kind of trees and hope for the best. Inoculation was in the hands of mother nature and the local ecosystem. With modern growing techniques such as those employed by Truffle Farms Europe, we are seeing truffle yields beyond the wildest dreams of early truffle farmers.
How Do You Start A Truffle Farm?
The first thing to consider is the location of your farm. To grow truffles, you need some very specific climatic and soil conditions.
Perhaps the most important climatic condition is that the winters don’t get too cold. Truffles can survive the occasional frost, but a prolonged period of frozen ground will kill truffles. Truffles can withstand hot European summers, but you will need access to a water source. A summer draught can be just as fatal to truffles as a winter freeze.
Truffles require very specific soil conditions. Different truffles require different soils. The pH varies depending on the type of truffle you want to grow. Spend some time researching which soil will work best for your truffle. When you have found a likely location take number of soil samples and have them analyzed to confirm they are suitable.
Security is another consideration, especially if you have a big truffle farm. Truffles are a very valuable crop and can be attractive to thieves. A discreet location away from main roads is always wise. If you can find somewhere with a single access point, that’s even better.
Don’t advertise the fact that you are growing truffles and try to keep your operation as low-key as possible. Most big truffle farms have a watchman to keep an eye on the crop 24 hours a day.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Truffles?
Growing truffles takes time and patience. After inoculating saplings with truffle spores, you will need to keep the trees indoors for the first year or two to ensure they have the best chance of survival.
After this they are ready to be planted outside. The trees can produce their first truffle harvests once they reach four or five years of age. At this stage the root network will still be comparatively small, which means less room for truffles to grow.
As the trees mature at around eight or nine years old the roots are more developed and will produce a bigger truffle harvest.
If you haven’t bought inoculated truffles from a reputable supplier, you could be waiting decades before you enjoy your first harvest. If you’re serious about growing truffles, then you need to use the best
Can Truffles Grow In The United States?
Yes, truffle growing in the United States is still in its infancy but developing fast. Modern growing techniques and a greater understanding of the climate and conditions needed have made it easier to identify the prime areas for growing truffles.
Thanks to their history, prestige, and unique flavor, truffles from Europe will remain the most expensive and iconic. But demand for truffles is so high that truffles grown in the United States are selling fast, and values are increasing.
How Can I Protect My Crop From Wild Boars?
Wild boars are famous for their love of truffles and a worthy advisory for any truffle farmer. Keeping them away from your truffles is a battle as old as truffles themselves.
If you’re truffle farm is small, a simple fence I the best way to protect your truffles. An electric fence will provide even more protection but be careful not to put the voltage too high. Powerful electric fences can be fatal for smaller animals such as rabbits. Another drawback to electric fences is the cost of paying for the electricity. A drawback to regular fences is that they can be detrimental to the local ecosystem as they don’t permit animals to move around freely in their habitat.
An old trick for keeping wild boars away is to use chili. Boars have a very sensitive nose, and they don’t like the smell of chili. Plant chilies around the perimeter of your truffle farm and scatter fresh cut chilies if you ever see signs of boars in the vicinity.
How To Harvest Truffles
To find the truffles you will need a trained truffle dog. In the past people would use pigs, but they’re not practical. Pigs are big strong animals and love the taste of truffles. A few hours spent wrestling a pig away from your valuable truffles will leave you exhausted. Not ideal, especially as the pig will certainly eat a fair few truffles along the way. Pigs are also expensive to feed and maintain.
Truffle dogs can be any breed with a good nose. The most popular are the Lagotto Romagnolo, Springer Spaniel, Beagle and Golden Retriever. You will need to train your dog from an early age if you want it to become an ace truffle hunter. Hide truffles and offer treats as a reward each time the dog finds the truffle. Over time start to hide the truffle in more difficult places. Eventually your dog will be able to find truffles out on the farm.
Once the harvest season arrives, the fun begins. Walking out each morning with your dogs searching for truffles you will feel anticipation and excitement. When the dogs catch the scent of a truffle and you dig down and pull out a fresh truffle, you will have your reward for the previous years hard work.