Truffles are some of the most desired mushrooms in the world. Used in haute cuisine, they are prized for their rich, earthy flavor. Just a few shavings from a single truffle can infuse a dish with its scent and taste. Truffles grow underground near the roots of oak and hazel trees, but can also be cultivated in the proper environment in truffle plantations. North Carolina is one of the only places--along with Oregon and Washington--where truffles have successfully been grown outside of Europe.
Things You'll Need
truffle-innoculated oak or hazel trees
Decide where you will plant your oak or hazel trees. Truffle-friendly trees need to be planted in an area where the soil drains well and rain does not stand in puddles, where the soil is well aerated and is fairly loose, and where the pH of the soil is between 6.5-8.0. Most parts of North Carolina except for the very sandy areas of the coast have soil that fills these conditions. The mountain and piedmont areas of North Carolina have the right kind of soil and large tracts of land for truffle cultivation.
Purchase trees inoculated with truffle spores. One place in North Carolina that sells inoculated trees is Garland Truffles in Hillsborough (see Resources). You will want to plant several trees. Garland Truffles recommends planting over at least an acre, but you can plant in smaller quantities if you don't have that much land. The more trees you plant, though, the more truffles you will eventually harvest. Truffles can sell for more than $600 a pound and are prized by chefs and gourmands all over the world.
Keep the trees free of standing water and the soil well-drained and in good condition. Check the pH of the soil annually to make sure it is within the recommended levels for truffle growing. It must remain between 6.5-8.0 for truffles to grow.
Keep the land free of pests including squirrels and chipmunks, because they will eat the truffles. Prevent weeds from growing by spreading hay or pine needles among the trees as a blanket on the ground.
Harvest the truffles once they have grown. It takes 3-6 years for a full harvest to come in for the first time. After this, however, your trees should produce truffles annually.
Keep pests away from your truffle trees with deeply set fences.
If the pH in your soil is too low, you can add lime to raise it to the proper number (6.5-8.0). To lower high pH levels, add compost or manure to the soil and mix well. The best way to make sure you are altering your pH levels correctly is to take a soil sample to your local agriculture lab or to Garland Truffles for analysis and recommendations.