Growing truffles is anything but easy, and it takes specialized skills and knowledge to be able to do so successfully. In fact, one reason truffles are so expensive is that they are very difficult to grow commercially. However, if you're wanting to try your hand at growing truffles, there are some ways in which you can attempt to accomplish this.
What Are Truffles?
Truffles are a member of the tuber family of mushrooms with an earthy flavor that is reminiscent of a cross between garlic and mushrooms. They grow underground among the roots of various trees, including hazelnut, chestnut, pine, willow, elm and oak trees. Truffles are grown primarily in the wild - mainly in France, Croatia, Italy, Oregon and Washington.
Truffles are notoriously difficult to grow, which is why they are so expensive. In an attempt to avoid the high price of growing truffles, many adventurous souls are turning to home truffle cultivation.
Growing Truffles at Home
Growing truffles requires some fairly specific conditions in order for the truffles to grow and flourish.
Since growing truffles takes place in the roots of the tree, you have to plant a new tree in order to cultivate truffles. You can purchase a tree sapling that has been innoculated under very controlled conditions in order to accomplish this. The seeds or seedlings are available from special cultivation farms.
Conditions Necessary for Growing Truffles
When planting the treated seeds or seedlings, it is necessary to choose a location that is:
- Away from extreme weather conditions - This is why the temperate climate of the Pacific Northwest is an ideal location for truffle hunters. Truffles will not grow in any place that has extreme weather - whether hot or cold.
- Away from foraging animals - Animals like the scent and flavor of truffles almost as much as humans do. If the seeds are planted in a location where animals can forage for them, it is very likely that an animal will dig up your truffles before you can get to them.
- Alkaline - The ideal soil for growing truffles is relatively high in alkaline levels. Soil can be tested for alkalinity by mixing it with a little vinegar. If the mixture hisses, there isn't enough soil alkalinity, and you will need to adjust it by adding lime to the soil.
- Away from other trees (except other hazelnut trees) - Other trees can affect the growing conditions and create water pooling, flooding or soil issues. Plant the hazelnut seedlings far away enough from other trees that these factors won't be present.
- Well-drained - Truffles need to be grown in well-drained soil away from the presence of standing water.
- Away from other vegetation - Truffles need mostly dirt to grow. Other vegetation will choke out the conditions that are ideal for growing truffles.
What to do while Growing Truffles
Plant your specially inoculated seeds or seedlings in an area with well-drained soil. Keep other plants, vegetation and trees from encroaching on the area where the hazelnut tree seeds have been planted. Wait and watch. Most truffles growers say you will have to wait about six to ten years for your first crop.
How Will I Know if Truffles Have Grown?
After planting the seeds for growing truffles, keep an eye on the ground around the tree for bulges in the ground. These may indicate that you are finally growing truffles. While you might be anxious for your truffle crop to grow. . .you likely will be waiting for several years for that to happen.
Where to Find Treated Seedlings?
The seedlings that have been treated with truffle fungus can be difficult to find locally. There are some e-commerce sites, however, that do allow you to order the seedlings.
- New World Truffieres sells seedlings on the Internet. Pricing is about $30 per tree plus $20 for shipping and handling. The seedlings are grown to order, so there is about a one year lead-time between ordering and receiving your seedling.
- Truffle UK LTD sells truffle-impregnated seedlings in the UK for a price of 70 pounds for three seedlings.
- For serious truffle growers who are looking to create a truffle orchard, the American Truffle Company partners with growers to provide seedlings and science to assist with truffle-growing.
Growing truffles takes great patience. Not only must you live in an area where climate conditions are appropriate for growing truffles, but you must plant your tree seeds, keep the ground clear of vegetation and wait to see what happens. Even if every condition is met - from having the right climate to planting specially inoculated seedlings - there is no guarantee that truffles will actually grow. Because of this, it is best to test your conditions with one or two trees before committing a great deal of your time and resources to growing truffles. Once you have had your first crop of truffles, however, chances are good that the same location will continue to produce truffles for years to come.