Truffles are a delicacy that is eaten mostly in restaurants and, of course, exported to European markets. You sure can find it in a store, however, it has quite a hefty price tag. In this edition of Farmer’s Inside Track, a truffle expert unpacks all the nitty-gritty on this expensive and lucrative product.
A truffle – not to be confused with the chocolate treat or even a mushroom – is a type of ectomycorrhizal fungus, which means it grows symbiotically with tree roots. Truffles, unlike other types of mushrooms, grow entirely underground.
Because truffles are such an expensive product, farming it can be quite lucrative.
Paul Miros, second in command and in charge of advertising and marketing at Woodford Truffles SA, shares his expertise on growing truffles.
“The truffle is the fruiting body of the fungus that is growing on the host plant. The host plant is the oak tree, you can use different trees that can accept mycorrhizal fungi,” Miros says.
There are various types of truffles found all over the world. The black winter truffle, also known as the French perigod, is the most common and easiest to cultivate, he explains.
“The black winter truffle species needs a cold environment to grow in and the truffle grows underground, so it’s a little bit protected from the environment,” Miros says.
But essentially, the truffle needs to be in snowy conditions, for example, in the mountains. At Woodford, Miros explains that they use a measurement of cold units to determine whether the site is viable to grow the truffles. The minimum requirement for cold units is around 750 cold units.
The areas best suited are high up in the mountains, and they plant in the Langkloof as well as the Outeniqua area in George, and the Cerderburg mountain range. The Western Cape is the perfect place to grow, Miros says, however, there are pockets in KwaZulu-Natal that are perfect for truffle farming too.
In this episode, Miros also discusses:
- Soil preparation process;
- Water requirements; and
- Harvesting season.
Want to know more? Listen to the full episode of Farmer’s Inside Track.
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