About Truffles

Perigord_Black_Truffle

Truffles are fungi that grow in and on the roots of specific trees, and have fruiting bodies that grow beneath the ground. Truffles of various kinds are found throughout Europe, Asia, America, Australia and Africa, but only a few species have any real commercial value.

Truffle’s flavor, rarity and their extraordinary prices are exciting many people around the world.

Until recently truffles harvested for commercial uses were confined to the ancient oak forests in Europe, but with developing resources and ongoing research the prized truffle is now being produced in New Zealand.

With their unique flavor and intoxicating smell, truffles have been eaten since the times of Greeks and the Romans as delicacies, aphrodisiacs, and medicines.

Truffles Supplied By Kings Truffles

Perigord Black Truffle (Tuber melanosporum)

They are considered the finest of edible fungi and have a place in gastronomy alongside saffron, caviar, and foie gras. An individual melanosporum truffle varies in size from the size of a pea up to that of a grapefruit. With a skin that is similar to that of an avocado, the flesh of the truffle is a dark brown black with white veins running through it. The truffle aroma is very powerful, with sweet forest-floor notes.

The Perigord black truffle makes up the bulk of truffles presently grown in New Zealand but tends to be very site specific in order to succeed. The black truffle is harvested in the winter months (June, July and August in New Zealand).

Bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii)

The Bianchetto truffle, which is usually fairly small, is of sphere shape and knobbly, however in well aerated soil it can grow to the size of an orange. The skin is a yellow-brown and quite thick with flesh that is pale brown.

Because Bianchetto can grow on various pinus species, the crop can be considered as a supplementary income to timber on farm and forestry woodlots and windbreaks.

Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum)

Also known as the black summer truffle, it occurs in France and Italy during summer and autumn, and is widely consumed in those countries. It is easily distinguished from the Perigord black truffle by its coffee coloured interior and the network of ridges that cover the surface of its spores. It is a heavy producer with a distinct flavor and smell of its own and has its own market niche.

The Burgundy truffle is less site specific than melansporum and probably better suited generally to New Zealand growing and restaurant market.

Worldwide, truffles have been harvested and eaten as a luxury food for thousands of years. Truffles were even found in a few recipes in the first ever cookbook from first century A.D., Apicius’s De re Coquinaria. France has always been the major truffle growing and consuming country. In the late 1980’s Perigord truffles (Tuber melanosporum) were first imported into New Zealand from France along with French technology used to infect and grow trees for truffle production.

Now there are over 50,000 trees in New Zealand, most of them infected with Tuber melanosporum. There are also a number of trees infected with either Tuber aestivum (burgundy truffle) or Tuber borchii (white truffle).

European truffle production is limited by the lack of large-scale farms, relatively low levels of technical skill and business expertise within the farming community, and enormous competition from other forms of land use. Total truffle production varies from 10 to 50 tonnes annually. To achieve more yield certainty plantings of truffieres in Europe is becoming planned and deliberate. This includes preliminary analyses of pH, soil texture and presence or otherwise of competing fungi. In order to be economically viable these truffiers will need a watering system, ongoing management care and a properly trained truffle dog for the harvesting.

Partly following on from developments in France, but also as a consequence of successes with other new specialist crops “downunder”, there has been growing interest from New Zealand and Australia in establishing a truffle industry. Both countries have been growing black truffles for a number of years (and it is believed that many more truffles are grown in New Zealand than are found largely because of the scarcity of well trained dogs). The soil and climate conditions required by truffles and their host trees exist in both countries, and both have the high technical and management skills required to make black truffle growing a success (however it is still a young industry and ongoing research and developments are being made with varying degrees of success).

At present there have been about 50,000 trees planted on more than 150 sites in New Zealand, most of which have fewer than 600 trees. Plantations which are producing truffles can be found from Bay of Plenty to mid Canterbury. Because of the relatively small size of the existing truffieres it is difficult to extrapolate precise production data but yields equivalent to well over 50kg/hectare have already been achieved on some sites. About 30 truffieres are now being regularly harvested.