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Information at a Glance

General
  • Truffles are hypogeous (underground) versions of mushrooms. They don't form a prominent stem and their spore-bearing surfaces are enclosed. They rely on animals eating them (mycophagy) to distribute their spores, instead of air currents like mushrooms. Truffles resemble small potatoes, and often between the size of a marble and a golf ball .
  • There are hundreds of different kinds of truffles, and while none are known to be poisonous, only a few of them are considered to be delicacies by humans. Truffles (and mushrooms) are only the "fruit" of the fungus (like an apple to an apple tree); the main perennial fungal body exists as a web of filamentous hyphae in the soil.

Growth & Cultivation

  • To cultivate truffles, inoculated truffle trees are planted in orchards much like those for fruits and nuts, except that the crop appears below ground and is usually harvested with the help of trained dogs or pigs that can smell the truffles through a layer of earth. Truffles begin to appear several years after the inoculated seedlings are planted and production can continue for decades.
  • Truffle propagation has been attempted in Europe for millennia with mixed success. Experimental plots of European truffles are now spreading like weeds across the Globe. Oregon has very fine truffles that have grown here in conjunction with local plants for probably thousands of years. TruffleZone advises anyone that is considering truffle propagation in their locale to use the most pungent local truffles

Processing & Technology

  • Farmers are instructed what is exactly wanted BEFORE they go to harvest the truffles. If they are not instructed on picking the right truffles before they go deep in the mountain, farmers usually pick all the truffles they can find, which includes very small and premature ones. When the truffles are cleaned and sorted according to kind, the ones among them which have gone bad or which are woody, are sorted out. Truffles are preserved in cans and jars, which provides the customer with a bigger window and more alternative for using truffles.
  • In North American forests, prescribed burning and mechanical thinning are widely used. A results suggest that either thinning or burning can reduce short-term truffle production and consumption, and potentially the dispersal of ectomycorrhizal spores by small mammals. Moreover, truffles decreased with treatment intensity, suggesting heavy thinning and higher burn intensity, particularly when applied together, can significantly affect short-term truffle abundance and small mammal consumption.

Market

  • The sale of truffles remains quite exclusive and secret. Truffle harvesters gather generally each week at truffle markets, which take place in different villages depending upon the day of the week. Preserved gourmet truffles take about 60% of the total world’s market share of truffles, as they are the best way to obtain truffles while not in season.
  • Truffles are among the world’s preeminent culinary delicacies. Revered for millennia, only their price has kept pace with their fame. Retail prices in the U.S. for Tuber melanosporum, the French black truffle or Perigord truffle, and Tuber magnatum, the Italian white truffle, have reached $1000 and $3000 per pound.

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