- What is truffle?
- Varieties of truffles
- Which truffle trees to plant and how?
The end of year festivities are the subject of many markets and truffle festivals, mainly in the south-east of France, and the prices fly, often, depending on the offer. Are you wondering if you too can plant a truffle tree to harvest your truffles?
What is truffle?
The truffle, a little globose, family Tuberaceae, is the fruit of a mycorrhizal fungus: it can be particularly tasty and refined but some species have no taste interest. Indeed, there are more than a hundred species of the genus Tuber.
Originally from Burgundy, it was then much produced in the Lot and today, it is the Vaucluse which offers most of the production (80%).
The truffle comes from a perfect symbiosis between the mushroom and the tree under which it grows. The mushroom mycelium, consisting of fine filaments, will live in harmony with the roots of the tree. And the combination of the chlorophyll plant and mycelium of the mushroom will produce mycorrhizae on the new filaments, which will give a truffle. When it is ripe, it will release spores that will in turn produce filaments that fit into the rootlets of the tree.
It matures at the end of the year, for Christmas, by and large, while it has grown in the spring and has grown in volume during the summer. The pig and, increasingly, the truffle dog are often used to help truffle collectors called "caveurs" or "rabassiers".
Varieties of truffles
Among the most sought after truffles are the most emblematic:
The black truffle or truffle of Périgord (Tuber melanosporum)
it is the queen of truffles, around 1000 € / kg. It needs heat and will grow in calcareous soil at a pH of 7.5 to 8.5. It is found about 15-25 cm deep under truffle trees such as downy oaks and holm oaks, mainly but also charms, pines, limes and hazel. It produces between November and March.
White winter truffle or Alba white truffle (Tuber magnatum)
It is a beautiful Italian, the most expensive (more than 5000 € / kg) and the most coveted. Delicate, it needs soils without pebbles, aerated, sandy, well drained, which remain fresh even in summer, under truffle trees such as downy oaks and holm oaks. Its harvest is between September and December.
Burgundy truffle or Champagne truffle (Tuber uncinatum)
It has a pronounced taste, it grows in all limestone soils, even clayey, with less requirement than the truffle of Périgord (pH required around 7-8). Because of this, it is the most widespread. Its truffle trees are oaks, hazel trees, hornbeams, beeches, pines. It is found from September to January.
The white summer truffle (Tuber aestivum)
It lives in symbiosis with the following truffle trees: oak, hazel, pine, linden... Its fine and light taste reminds the smell of forest mushrooms. It is harvested from May to September.
Chinese truffles (Tuber himalayense, Tuber indicum and Tuber sinense)
It can be deceived by being sold for black truffle when it has neither the taste and therefore the price.
Which truffle trees to plant and how?
Ideally, it is advisable to plant truffle trees on a calcareous ground fallow, exposed rather to the south, close to the house to avoid the flights. Avoid deforested land already too colonized by other fungi.
You will buy from specialized nurserymen mycorhizés plants which will allow to seed the ground with the truffle. The selected species of mycorrhizal trees will depend on the nature of the terrain, natural vegetation and pedo-climatic conditions. The downy oaks and holm oaks have the preferences of all, but as stated above, linden, pine, hornbeam, beech or hazel can also be planted.
The density of the plantation is also an essential element: the more important it is, the earlier the production will be, but the more it will require maintenance in terms of size. It will thus be necessary to lighten the interior of the tree in order to bring in the light. Divide the rows 3m (6m for the black truffle) and keep a distance of 4m between each tree in the row.
When planting in November, form a bowl at the foot of the tree and water generously before mulching.
Protect the trees during the first 5 years so that they do not get destroyed by pests (rodents, game...). The production of truffles will not intervene before 6-8 years but will be at its peak only after 10-12 years: a long-term investment!