Presenting The Black Truffle
5 Year Old Black Truffle Tree
So you heard that a black truffle farm can be economically rewarding? Done correctly, a black truffle farm is the most lucrative legal cash crop that exists. Governments do not like competition in their illegal world wide drug trade. But, dont expect fast result or spend your future earning too quickly. A black truffle farm can take years before it starts to produce a single black truffle. Here in Spain thou, black truffles can usually be collected / harvested 5 - 7 years after planting your trees. Other plantations take a lot longer to produce black truffles or never produce any black truffles at all. Be ready to learn a lot of unpronounceable words and bang heads with farmers who have experience in other types of farming. Unfortunately, a black truffle farm is still considered snake oil by many farmers. But in the end, it is well worth the effort because 80% of a black truffle farm is establishing it and afterwards its low maintenance until you start collecting them smelly, ugly black potato like tubers that people will pay outrageous prices for. The black truffle spore lives in what is called symbiosis on certain tree roots. In other words they live in harmony with each other — the roots give a place where the truffle spore can live and propagate, in return for this favor, the black winter truffle ports nutrients for the tree.
Science has answered many questions that were previously unknown concerning black truffle farms until just a few short years ago. Science has taken this once dodgy venture and has turned it into a very lucrative way of farming. The advancements in DNA testing has been a contributing factor in many aspects to this success. Some nurseries will even use DNA testing to make sure that they are only using Tuber Melanosporum ( the black truffle ) for their tree inoculation. This at times can be the only way to distinguish between similar types of truffles. But, we cant give all the credit to the scientists, as successful black truffle farmers deserve their due credit in helping to uncover many of the mysteries of the elusive black truffle. Basically, the collaboration between black truffle farmers and science are the main reason for such positive advancements in the last 15 years or so.
Black truffles are found naturally in the wild in Europe between the latitudes 40N to the 47N. Which corresponds basically from Valencia, Spain to Paris, France. They are mainly found in Spain, France and Italy. They are also found to a lesser degree in the Ex - Yugoslavia region and Hungary. They were introduced between the same latitudes but in the southern hemisphere some years ago, mainly in Australia, New Zealand and Tasmania. They are also being farmed in the USA from the Carolinas to the West coast, along the same latitudes and in certain regions of South America. There are now profitable black truffle farms thru out the world. So, if you live between these latitudes, most likely you can be a successful black truffle farmer. If your geographical location does not fit the profile for a black truffle farm, there are other types of truffles to be farmed. They might not fetch such high prices as the original black truffle, but they are defiantly worth growing.
Here in Spain and in Europe, black truffle farms are mainly established with the holm oak, its different varieties and the downy oak. The holm oak has proven itself to be a hardy and reliable host to the black truffle spore. In more humid areas, the downy oak is more commonly used. Here in Europe, the hazel nut tree has been slowly eliminated from black truffle farms for a number of reasons. Easy cross contamination with inferior truffles and a higher maintenance (a lot of pruning and lugging the branches away) are the main reasons. For some reason, the hazel nut tree is more susceptible to cross contamination of inferior types of truffles, which you want to avoid at all costs. The use of the hazel nut tree has the advantage that it can start producing black truffles some years earlier than the holm oak / downy oak but most feel that the disadvantages far out weigh the advantages. This is a point argued by many people. Also the hazel nut tree wont be producing any quality type of nut and if it did, you wouldn't want heavy collecting machinery driving around your land squashing the black truffle that is growing underground.
Make sure your black truffle trees are purchased only from a nursery that specializes in inoculated trees. Preferably from a local nursery that has been there for years and will be there for years to come. Trees are 6 Euros each in Spain, not cheap. But here, quality is of the utmost criteria. Your future yield greatly depends on the quality of the sapling and the quality / quantity of the mycorrhiza ( black truffle spore ) on its roots. Most importantly, the trees should come with a certificate of inoculation. In lay mans terms, the certificate states the amount of truffle spores in percentages on the roots and the type of truffle that the root is inoculated with. If you want a tree that produces black truffles; make sure the certificate specifies Tuber Melanosporum. A certificate is obligatory here in Spain if you want to receive government grants to plant your land. I imagine it’s the same in other countries; check your local laws if you are trying to get government grants. To sum up – A lot of people have been ripped off by buying a cheaper tree only to find years down the road they were scammed. That is the main reason that you only use a reliable source for your tree purchase. Feel free in contacting me so I can recommend you to the 2 different nurseries that supplied me with my trees here in Spain. If a truffle grower’s assoc. exists in your country by all means get in touch with them. Here in Spain, the nursery that sells you your inoculated black truffle trees will usually give you free advice in how to establish your farm successfully. If for any reason they want to charge for this service, I would shop around for a different nursery.
There are roughly 250 different types of truffles but only 5 or 6 that are worth your while to grow commercially.
Italian white truffle - Tuber magnatum
Black truffle ( perigord black truffle, black winter truffle ) - Tuber melanosporum
Winter truffle - Tuber brumale
Summer truffle - Tuber aestivum
Burgundy truffle - Tuber uncinatum
Desert truffles - Terfezia spp