With this complete guide on how to grow truffles, you will be able to harvest these great little treats each year! If you have ever sat down at a restaurant and tried a specially-prepared truffle, you likely loved it. Truffles are often considered a delicacy or special treat for those who eat them.
But do you know if truffles are difficult to grow? Could you grow them yourself? Can you sell truffles you grow at home? Can you grow white and black truffles?
If you want to grow truffles, you need to know what to do. The most important requirement is where you live. Having the ideal climate for growing truffles is essential for growing success.
What Is a Truffle?
For those not completely sure of what a truffle is, it is not always a chocolate candy-like food. Though some truffles are chocolate-tasting and sweet, most are actually a type of mushroom or fungus.
These have a savory flavor and grow underground, which often makes them more difficult to harvest. However, many different flavors exist today. In fact, you can find hundreds of different varieties around the world.
Popular Truffle Varieties
Truffles are considered a delicacy in many parts of the world and often come at a high price. Some you can buy for a few hundred dollars, but others can cost more. Two of the most popular truffle varieties include:
European White Truffle
This particular variety of truffles costs upwards of $3,500 for just a pound. Though it is sold by the pound, if you look at the price by the ounce, it is the highest-priced food of anything else in the world. Most people will not even be able to afford an ounce of this truffle.
With this extremely high price, it’s a delicacy often saved for only the top government officials, royalty, and top A-list celebrities. Or, if you happen to be a millionaire or billionaire, you could buy them fairly often.
If you want to try truffles without breaking the bank, more affordable varieties are widely available. The most popular of the options is known as the Black Diamonds. These are shavings from truffles that can be added to desserts or dishes for a lower price. A bag of these shavings will cost only a few hundred dollars.
In the USA, few places offer the same type of truffle that sells for anything near the European truffles’ price. That is even though some of these truffles grow there.
Where Do Truffles Grow?
Truffles grow well in some parts of the United States as well in parts of Europe.
Where do truffles grow in the US? They tend to grow best in the Mid-Atlantic region which generally falls within USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8. Some popular areas for growing truffles are North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Delaware, Tennessee, and Virginia.
With it’s moist conditions and above average rainfall, the Pacific Northwest has areas where truffles grow, but they are known as a lesser version of the coveted European-grown white truffles.
These climate zones provide a general guideline, but successful truffle cultivation also depends on specific conditions to grow. These include microclimate conditions, proper soil with the right pH, the temperature, and tree “partners” (ideally planted with oak trees and hazelnut trees).
Where do truffles grow in other parts of the world? Truffles grow well in the Mediterranean. Places like France, Spain, Italy, Greece all have truffle varieties that grow in their area. Areas in Northern Africa and the Middle East grow desert truffles.
How Truffles Grow
Once you decide you want to start growing truffles, you will need to know as much about the process as possible. Use this information to prepare for the tough road ahead and ensure that you don’t make costly beginner mistakes.
One important thing to keep in mind is that the way truffles grow is unusual compared with other things. They actually have a symbiotic relationship with oak or filbert trees. The truffles grow on the roots of trees underground and use the tree as their main source of nutrients. Then, once the truffles are fully-grown, the trees feed off of them.
This relationship is a give-and-take that benefits both sides, but the truffles should be harvested before the trees begin to feed off of them. The trees lay dormant when the winter months come or when temperatures start to drop. This allows the truffles to use the tree’s nutrients to stay alive and growing.
Learn more: Hazelnut Tree Growing Requirements
How to Grow Truffles
If you want to go through this process and have truffles for you and your family or to sell, you will need to grow truffles properly.
Steps to Growing Truffles
The following steps will layout the best way to go about this to have the right soil and ground for the job.
1. Clear the Area
Begin by removing all stumps, trees, and roots from your truffle-growing area. This may take time, but the more you remove, the better the truffles can grow.
2. Test the Soil
You will need to get the soil tested to ensure it has the right pH, which is from 8 to 8.3. You can use a simple soil test kit which you do at home. Lime or chalk can help achieve the correct pH, so a soil with this compound would be perfect. Otherwise, you can just apply the right amount of lime.
There are certain necessary nutrients truffles require so it’s important to add to the soil or adjust the pH levels if needed.
3. Plant Host Trees
When the soil is ready for planting, you will need to plant the right host trees to help the truffles thrive. Oak trees and hazelnut / filbert trees are ideal to support truffle growth. Begin planting these in your growing area. You do not want to start with a small amount, even if you don’t expect to grow hundreds of truffles.
The more trees the better. At a minimum start with a dozen trees. If you have additional room and funds, plan to plant additional trees as you can. This will ensure enough truffles will grow.
Your trees will need to be inoculated with truffle fungus before you plant them. In time, you will inoculate the trees with truffle spores. Plant tree seedlings 4 – 5 feet apart.
Factors to Consider When Growing Truffles
Here are some of the things to consider when planning to plant and grow truffles:
With this many trees, you will also need to think about how you will go about watering them. If you have time to water them yourself, you could do that.
The problem is this is very time-consuming and could cause you to abandon the project before you grow any truffles. Getting an irrigation system in place for watering the trees is a better solution.
The trees will need around an inch of water per week to stay on a good growth schedule, so keep that in mind.
Also, if you have forest or greenery near your property, you will need to make sure that your trees are at least 30 feet away. This will keep other fungi from attaching to the tree and changing the truffles before they’re harvested.
You also need to think about the temperatures where you live. Truffles will not survive in too extreme of weather conditions. They do best in temperate climates.
Anything below 20 degrees could cause them to freeze. Also, the ground will be too hard to dig up to harvest the truffles. A moderate climate is best. If you have the proper climate for growing truffles, though, you just have to wait for your harvest.
In addition to having a pH level between 8 – 8.3, you should ensure the soil they will be growing in is soft, moist and well-draining. A high limestone content is also required.
Is It Hard to Grow Truffles?
Although you don’t need to do a ton of work besides keeping the soil and trees as they should be, growing your own truffles does take time. You have to dedicate years to growing your truffles and keep up the maintenance of your orchard.
This is one of the main reasons people tend to fail or give up after some time. It will take some hard work and effort to keep things going. You also need to have a lot of patience because you will not see the results soon. If you can’t stand to wait to see a profit from them, you will have a hard time.
How Long Do Truffles Take To Grow?
There is money to be made from your fully-grown truffles, but you will not see it anytime soon. It can take several years to be able to have your first harvest. Your investment will need to be one you can live without and still sustain yourself without making a profit for multiple years.
If you are banking on having a harvest in the first year or two, you will be disappointed. Hence, it is likely that you will get your first harvest between your sixth and eighth year of growing.
Harvesting Truffles aka Truffle Hunting
When you have successfully grown your truffles, one part of the process requires you to have a four-legged helper. Since truffles grow underground, there is no way for humans to know where all the truffles are, so you might end up digging everywhere. You might also not be able to harvest all the full-grown truffles underground.
As such, training a dog to recognize the truffle scent will allow it to lead you to each one of the ready-to-harvest truffles. With the dog’s keen sense of smell, they can sniff out the truffles and alert you, so you know where to dig.
This process can take some time if you are on your own with a single dog. But if you have a few helpers for harvest, each with a dog of their own, the process can go by quicker.
Therefore, if you are attempting to grow some truffles on your own, taking time to train your dog or adopt one to train will be a great way to prepare for the harvest while the truffles are still growing. The training can take some time, so being prepared early on will give your dog time to get used to it.
In addition, you can train pigs to hunt for truffles. They are called truffle pigs.
What Dog Breeds Are the Best for Truffle Hunting
The good news is any dog that has a good sense of smell and likes food rewards can get the job done. This pretty much describes almost all dogs, so you will likely have little trouble finding one that will not do it.
Start the training early for the dog or dogs to get good at it before the actual harvest. With that in mind, although most dogs can do the job, it is probably a good idea to get a large dog.
That is because it could get tiring to complete a whole harvest for a smaller dog. A larger dog that is more athletic will likely do better without getting tired or fatigued during the process.
Likewise, larger dogs often eat more, which means they love food rewards and will be more motivated to be trained and accomplish the task. Take some treats with you to reward your dog with, and you will have a professional truffle-sniffer for many harvests to come!
Can Anyone Grow Truffles?
If you live in a moderate climate and can wait years to harvest the truffles, then you can do it. Having the property and the means to plant the oak trees and filbert trees is also a requirement.
Many growers set up rainwater collection cisterns to collect water and irrigation systems to make watering effortless. Still, it will be important to monitor the area for insects, wildlife and other sources of stress.
If you want to grow truffles and feel like you have the patience it takes, just learn as much as possible about how to do it beforehand.
This will get you prepared for the journey, so there will be no big surprises, and you will know what to do along the way.
Growing Your Own Truffles
The biggest question you need to ask yourself when deciding whether you want to take on this job is if it’s worth it. Will you be patient enough for the job, can handle the work with your current job, or handle your finances without getting an immediate profit? If not, then maybe this isn’t for you.
Nonetheless, if you’re up for the challenge, as long as you know how to grow truffles, where do truffles grow in the US, and what are their growth requirements, you can get the job done!
See related: Growing Mushrooms at Home