No delicious recipes here, but a closer look at mysterious burnt patches of ground - a tell tale sign that truffles are lurking.
Beneath the beautifully inoculated holm oak is an area where little grows. Caused by truffles, the ground has a scorched appearance and as such, has been dubbed 'Truffle Brûlée'. Surprisingly little is known about these crop circles of the truffle world. Why are they there? How did they come to be?
It is clear that the suppression of weeds would be of benefit to the truffles. By removing the weeds, the truffles would remove competition for water, nutrients and sunlight. Not only is this in the interest of the truffle, but also of the host plant; in turn this will again help the truffles as a strong host plant means a strong root network to colonise.
Perhaps removing weeds allows the ground to crack and dry as the truffle matures and expands. Open fissures in the soil will allow the pungent aroma of the truffle to leech out into the air more freely, thus signalling to larger animals that it is ready. By enticing boar, dogs and humans, the truffle is likely to be eaten and its spores released in feces a much larger distance away than if the soil had remained intact and attracting only insects and other small creatures.
Some argue that the suppression of weeds is caused by the shade of the tree and is simply a product of being under a tree and not linked to the presence of truffles. However, I have observations that would argue is it by deliberate effort of the truffle...
We have seen brûlée far from the tree: in a place where the roots have passed far from the tree, down a hill and under a road. This site has proven to hold truffles (Duggy unearthed around 500g of truffles from this area this season), and it is clear to see the difference between the brûlée area and the lush grass growing in the distance.
The image below shows a row of our young truffle trees. Around the majority of trees, there is a visibly defined area around the bases of the trees that appears very low in weed density. However, in the foreground the tree has died and in its place are numerous dandelion flowers. The ground has been treated in exactly the same way, but it is clear to see the difference. The weeds are moving in.
Truffle Brûlée is a reliable indication of truffle activity below the surface and it is clear that brûlée would benefit the truffles. Could it also be that the truffles are sending us humans a signal of their presence as a clue to their location? Do they want to be cultivated? It wouldn't surprise me one bit! Clever little things.