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What is a Truffle?
Edible mushrooms are either Saprobes which grow on dead matter, Parasites which grow on living plants or - as is the case with truffles - Mycorrhizal which establish a symbiotic relationship with the roots of suitable host trees. Varieties include the Perigord Black Truffle (tuber melanosporum), the Burgundy Truffle (tuber uncinatum/aestivum) and the Cep or Porcini mushroom (boletus edulis).
In 2008/9, the average price in European markets, per kilo, was:
Black Truffle £900
Where do they grow?
Truffles can be found throughout the world but are most revered in southern Europe, particularly France and Italy.
Suitable growing areas in Great Britain are likely to be over chalk or limestone ie: Chiltern Hills; North and South Downs. Between Norwich and Cambridge; Hampshire and Wiltshire into Dorset, between Hull and Lincoln; north of Oxford; south to Gloucester; east to Bristol; the south coast west of Portland; West Devon around Brixham; west of York to Nottingham and parts of the Peak District. This is because truffle cultivation requires soil with a high pH (in excess of 7.3 for Burgundy truffle and 7.9 for Perigord Black truffle). Recent recorded 'finds' stretch as far north as Darlington in Yorkshire.
How do you harvest truffles?
Traditionally, pigs have been trained to find truffles but dogs are increasingly used these days. Truffle UK Ltd is able to provide dog training. Another intriguing method of finding the truffles is to observe where the truffle fly - la mouche - lays its eggs; it is believed that they choose only the finest truffle in which to do this.
Annual lifecycle of the Black Truffle