You see them in TV and the movies, and you read about them in the news – truffles seem to be that kind of food people are willing to pay a lot for…
EASY – because you need a lot of effort, time, and money to grow truffles.
Thus, they are VERY EXPENSIVE.
In fact, a pound of black truffle can sell for several hundred. White truffles can sell for thousands.
So, this rare and highly esteemed fungus is not to ignore. If you want to make a few bucks or test your skills as a gardener – truffles are probably a challenge to consider.
But, how can you grow truffles? You’re in the right place – we’ll teach you everything you need below. Check it out!
What are Truffles Exactly?
A truffle is a fungus. It is a particular type that belongs to the Ascomycota family. This type of fungus produces spores, so it’s mostly known as a fruiting body. They grow under the soil, in contrast to the typical mushroom.
Truffles only grow in particular areas, though. This includes Southern Europe in Italy, Spain, France, and Portugal (four-seasonal places).
You could truffles prefer tempered environments. That is areas that aren’t too hot but aren’t too cold either, especially where oak, pines, hazels, birch, and beech grow.
Why does the truffle prefer environments with these trees?
Because it grows directly on top of these trees’ roots. And these trees tend to produce surface roots that do not necessarily stay underground. In fact, you could say that truffles won’t grow without roots, and you wouldn’t be wrong.
On top of that, truffles need several years to grow. A single medium-sized truffle may take 5 years before you can harvest it.
Do truffles still sound like a great challenge? Then keep reading…
How Does Truffle Grow?
Truffles need trees. Without the trees, truffles won’t grow.
Why is that?
You need to understand that truffles are fungi. They aren’t like the typical plant that grows via photosynthesis (sunlight turns into energy).
Truffles, instead, use roots to absorb carbohydrates and thus grow. In exchange, the truffle makes it easier for the roots to absorb the nutrients and water around in a process called mycorrhiza. This happens as the truffle’s hyphae (fungi roots) reach for the resources around.
This process happens until the truffle is picked up. And it’s not necessarily picked up by humans. Truffles spread their spores around for the sole purpose of attracting animals. These animals can be ANYTHING.
From rats and mouses to meerkats, bears, pigs, deer, wallabies, and even kangaroos – they all like truffles. And they all devour them.
This is what truffles use as a spreading mechanism. They reproduce by going through these mammals’ digestive systems and reach other places as they defecate. In the process, the spores become new fungi wherever they land (as long as there are tree roots around).
Black vs. White Truffles
Remember we mentioned truffles are either black or white? Well, there are actually many species to consider – but these are the most popular.
What sets them apart is simple: their color.
White truffles are not necessarily white; they’re just clearer. These truffles look like ginger, with a brownish hue. Their spores and aroma tend to be intense.
Black truffles are indeed black. They are often a bit larger and boast a roughened surface. Their aroma and spores are mild.
Guess which one is the more expensive?
White truffles are obviously the most sought-after. What sets them apart is their taste. Due to their intensity, these truffles are super-rare and tend to be so expensive people are willing to pay thousands for a single pound.
Having said that, they take a bit more time to grow at first than black truffles. But if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, white truffles come with the advantage of higher pay per yield.
Does that matter? Well, it’s up to you. Black truffles are still decently expensive and will grow a bit more easily.
How to Grow Truffles? | 8 Easy Steps!
Whether you pick white or black truffles to grow – you will need to learn HOW.
And here, we want to teach you that in just a few steps.
This is what you should do:
Step 1: Pick the Perfect Place
First and foremost – make sure you’re growing those truffles in the ideal place.
Truffles require a broad place with enough space to grow tons of trees around (yes, that’s how it works). They also require a bit of pasture (so the place needs to be fertile as well).
But more importantly, you need to pick a place where truffles will thrive. This generally means virgin areas with no other trees or old plants around. These places tend to have contaminants that either kill truffles or don’t allow them to grow well.
Lastly, you need to pick a place where the four seasons happen. Truffles like the humidity of fall and winter but also require the warmth of spring and summer. Most truffles will only grow in places with this kind of yearly environment.
WORTH KNOWING: Truffle farmers typically own entire orchards featuring at least 100 trees. The largest truffle farms may have over 10,000 trees.
Step 2: Choose the Ideal Trees
What trees do truffles prefer? That’s probably the most critical question you should consider.
Scientists still don’t understand why truffles grow in certain kinds of trees, but there’s already enough evidence to say it ONLY happens with these species:
Be aware some of these trees may cost over $20 per seedling. Before you go and choose one, check their prices first.
Step 3: Prepare the Ideal Soil
The soil a truffle needs to grow is so specific that many people struggle to make it so.
To put it in short words, truffles require the most alkaline soil possible. That means at least 7.5 pH up to 8.3 pH.
If you want to avoid issues with your truffle-growing experience, you better check the soil’s pH before planting anything. Your soil could be highly acidic to the point of making it impossible for truffles to grow.
To make the soil alkaline acidic, you can always pour lime on the soil. This will increase the pH level to decent alkaline levels, sometimes over 8 pH. That’s optimal for most truffles to grow on.
TO CONSIDER: You can plant the trees in alkaline soils before you inoculate the truffles. This way, you can accelerate the tree-growing process while you prepare the soil for the fungi.
Step 4: Build A Quality Irrigation System
Almost every fungus requires a lot of humidity to thrive. This is why you should plan to build the most efficient irrigation system possible.
The reason is to keep the truffles thriving and to push your trees to grow faster. Irrigation is essential, especially in dry places.
BY THE WAY: If you don’t want to build the irrigation system, you can always use a hose for the job. This will only work for small farms or garden growing. You need to ensure at least 1 inch of water weekly.
Step 5: Plan the Trees (and Wait)
Say you already chose the trees and built the irrigation system. It’s time to plant those trees then.
As you know already, you will need at least 10 trees for the truffles to grow. Anything less than that will make it a lot harder to get even just one truffle.
Apart from that, you need to make sure the tree is planted away from fungi. If there are mushrooms or other fungi types around, you need to find a different tree place.
And lastly, pick a place for the trees that rarely grow weeds or grass. This is extra-hard but essential. Trees will grow better in areas like this and will be more likely to produce truffles.
Once you find that perfect place, just plant them. As they grow, you should care for them with everything you’ve got. That is, don’t let them succumb to the dangers of the environment and season changes.
This process will take no less than 5 years. You can wait a bit more to ensure the truffles are larger and tastier.
TO THINK ABOUT: You should keep the area around the trees free of any weeds. Weeding out by hand and with a hoe always helps. AVOID CHEMICAL HERBICIDES AND WEED KILLERS.
Step 6: Get A Truffle-Finding Animal
As the trees start to grow and the truffles grow along, you may notice how the truffles begin to grow around the trees’ bottom.
But most likely, you won’t even realize when truffles are growing. Given they’re often below ground and their smell is almost invisible to humans from afar, you won’t know when they’re ready.
That’s why truffle-sniffing dogs and pigs are so helpful. These can save you incredible amounts of time for searching and fiddling with the soil.
WORTHWHILE INVESTMENT: If buying or renting a truffle dog/pig is not on your mind, you can always train the animal yourself. This takes a bit more time and effort, but it’s worth the try, as you’ve been making a new friend and save a lot of money in renting animals.
Step 7: See if Truffles are Ready
As the animal sniffs around searching for truffles, you will notice how they appear almost in the same places. Once you dig out a truffle, check it thoroughly.
The truffle is ready as long as it’s large enough to not fit in one’s mouth. If you can eat the truffle in one bite, it’s probably still young. The truffle won’t necessarily cause any damage or taste wrongly, but it won’t be the same as a fully mature and giant truffle that will cost a lot more.
Among the signs you should be aware of as you hunt for truffles, consider:
- Moss or puffballs
- Soil mounds around tree trunks
- Weed and grass-free soil patches
- Burnt areas in the tree base
These are good to know if you’re searching for truffles by yourself.
Step 8: Harvest at The Right Time
Once you find the truffles – DON’T HARVEST THEM RIGHT AWAY!
In most cases, you are better off waiting for the truffles to keep growing. But once you identify where they are, harvesting will be a lot easier.
Now, when should you start harvesting truffles? It truly depends, yet a few factors will make it easy to know when’s the right time:
- Trees are already 5 years old – most truffles grow between the 5th and 10th years. Only in a few rare cases do they grow at the 3rd year, but that’s pretty uncommon.
- If possible, wait for winter – truffles are easier to harvest when temperatures start to lower just before winter starts. Once the soil freezes up or gets too moist, finding and digging them is a lot harder.
- Search in a sunny day – or at least when there isn’t any rain or snow, as that will make it a lot harder to find truffles (and digging them out) as well.
These three pieces of advice should help you discover and harvest the truffles perfectly. Enjoying those truffles or selling them afterward will be a total pleasure if you’re willing to wait for the right conditions.
How to Store Truffles?
Once you’ve harvested the truffles, you will notice they aren’t like the typical fruit or vegetable. In fact, they aren’t even like most fungi. Truffles have a concise shelf life in comparison.
That’s why you must learn how to store them correctly, or you may notice how they start to turn bad. And sure enough, that may feel like a massive waste of time and resources.
That’s why you should consider storing this way:
- Wash the truffle thoroughly after harvesting – get rid of any soil around, especially if it has vegetation on it. The truffle should look either black or yellowish.
- Keep in the fridge for a few days – truffles will conserve better in dry yet cold areas like a fridge. They can last up to 7 days in the refrigerator as long as you clean them every day to prevent rot.
- Slice and store in the freezer – if you want to save space and make them last longer, you can keep the truffles in your freezer wholly frozen. They can last up to a year this way. Consume as soon as they defrost.
- Preserve in oil – for several months of shelf life, you can always store those truffles bathed in oil. Not only does this make a much more flavorful truffle in the end, but it also produces a tasty oil that can be used for anything.
Whatever you do, don’t keep truffles in moist places exposed to outside environments. Truffles grow underground for a reason. They may rot really fast if you don’t keep them dry and cold.
Also, consider storing them in a clean place. Areas with soil or residues of other plants, fruits, or vegetables may also promote rotting a lot faster.
And last but not least, remember truffles are made of 70% water as fungi. That is, they will slowly dry out if you leave them hanging for more than 7 days.
You don’t need to be a gardening wizard or be part of a long line of truffle growers. With the advice above, you can also grow truffles (even in your backyard).
But, oh boy, does it take a lot of work, time, and money! If you aren’t willing to put those in line, then you’re better of staying away…
We know that’s not you, though. If you’re here, that’s because you want to put in the investment. So – what are you waiting for?
Get those truffles growing right away. You won’t regret it when they become valuable assets.