April 25, 2012
Where to Plant a Truffle Grove?
Back in 2007, we shot a television field segment in North Carolina with Franklin Garland, of Garland Truffles, along with his wife, Betty, pioneered truffle growing in the Western Hemisphere and produced the first commercially grown truffles in the United States in 1992. Truffles, a fungus that grow beneath the ground, are decadently delicious and probably one of the most exotic and costly delicacies, prized by chefs all over the world. They are also quite fascinating and part of that fascination comes from how they're grown and gathered. Recently, I started to think that wouldn’t it be fun to harvest my very own truffles? I put a call through to Franklin, who happened to be visiting someone near my farm and he had the time to meet with me.
1 Here I am with Franklin Garland, who calls himself the 'truffle czar.' He came to the farm to educate us about his method of growing truffles.
2 Ryan McCallister, my gardener, took very detailed notes.
3 Ralph Robbins, my arborist, found the presentation fascinating, as he had gone truffle hunting last autumn while visiting Italy.
4 Truffles are a fungus that can only survive by attaching itself in a mutually beneficial way to certain types of tree roots in what is called a symbiotic relationship.
5 The resulting combination of fungus, roots and other select organisms form a structure called mycorrhiza.
6 Franklin developed the method of inoculating filbert and oak trees with the Black Perigord Truffle. Inoculated trees can be purchased from him. Trees already planted in the ground cannot be inoculated.
7 We learned about the reproductive cycle of the truffle.
8 This is a photo of some of Franklin's very impressive Black Diamond truffles along with an almond, filbert, and a walnut for scale.
9 In addition to an inoculated tree, truffle development needs well defined seasons with dormancy of at least 90 days.
10 You also need well-drained, well structured porous soil. Preferred is clay based with sandy loam as second choice.
11 You should have high density planting for high density roots. Weeding of the grove is important, as well as tilling for aeration.
12 This is an example of high density planting.
13 For the truffles to grow, the pH levels in the grove need to be high, about 7.6, and should always be maintained with lime. No fertilizer is needed.
14 Franklin uses black plastic as a mulch covering to keep weeds at bay and to maintain soil moisture.
15 He also explained that once the grove has been planted and if all goes according to plan, one must wait a minimum of 5 years before a single truffle can be harvested.
16 Franklin and his wife, Betty, and son, Gavan, own and harvest from several orchards in North Carolina and Virginia.
17 After the 5 year wait, truffles are found by specially trained dogs who sniff them out. Franklin's dog is a lemon beagle named Peedee.
18 Pigs have been used to hunt truffles, but they often eat the treasure. Dogs are more interested in pleasing their master and give up the truffle easily with a little treat as a reward.
19 Franklin was very surprised when Peedee came back with this giant truffle.
20 This is the size of the average truffle.
21 We joked about training the French bulldogs to hunt truffles.
22 A cross-section of a black truffle reveals white fungus veins throughout. The black represents the spores.
23 Another highly sought after type of truffle is the burgundy truffle, which grows throughout Europe.
24 And, of course, the fabulous Italian White Alba truffle - I adore shaved white truffle over homemade pasta! It's flavor is sublime. The white truffle has never been successfully cultivated and is priced up to $2,000/pound!
25 After the presentation, we took a drive around the farm to look for possible locations for a truffle grove.
26 This hayfield on a slope looked promising.
27 Franklin also liked this bright sunny area. I have yet to decide where.