TERROIR AND THE SURROUNDING AREA
The truffe is out there!
It is universally agreed that the black truffle is not easy to cultivate. Truffle researchers and experts, Zambonelli et al, have indicated that the best way to know if a site is suited to truffle production is by observing the surrounding area. When starting a truffière one must ask the question 'are there any truffles growing locally?'. Luckily for us, the answer is clearly 'yes!' We are in the heart of a truffle producing region. The diamonds on the image above represent existing truffle producing truffières surrounding our plot and the size of these diamonds represents their respective sizes. We are in the middle of the map indicated by our logo.
Truffles have even been found under an oak (not even inoculated) on our land before establishing our truffière. The reason for this is quite simple; it is because of the perfect soil conditions we have. The habitat of Black Diamond Truffle Trees is one where truffles occur naturally. This ideal terroir is absolutely vital to the chances of harvesting truffles on our land and we are more than proud to share with you the details of our terroir in depth.
The burnt ground
The areas beneath the established inoculated truffle trees have very little growing; the grass seems to be dead. This is known as 'Brûlé' because is resembles burnt grass. It is a very good sign and indicates healthy mychorrhizal activity beneath the surface. In other words, the truffles are on their way! The science behind the process that creates this effect is fascinating and still not fully understood (like much of truffle cultivation). See our blog for articles covering topics that show just how fascinating these elusive mushrooms are.
The key features of our land
THE PERFECT SOIL
The photo on the left shows a cross-section of the land at our truffle farm. It is not taken from an article detailing the ideal ground to plant truffle trees in, although it could be! Our soil aligns so closely with modern research. Beneath the calcareous (limestone-rich) soil of optimum depth lies a shattered limestone base. It has the ideal structure, pH and drainage requirements. It is the perfect soil, requiring no adjustments. It is documented that truffles have grown naturally here since the middle ages. As a bonus it is also believed that the reddish-brown, iron-rich calcareous soils produce truffles of the highest quality. This is the most likely reason that truffles thrive so well so close to our plot.
We also have just the right altitude, orientation and incline for truffles. Preferring marginal land, they thrive in our hills and happily colonise the roots of trees throughout our coombe. We know that our truffière is established on a site that has been left as a grass pasture for at least 30 years (being close friends with the previous owners) and we suspect for many years prior it was the site of a vineyard. This makes for an excellent background history of the land and, as cited by Hall et al, reassures us that competing ectomycorrhizal fungi is minimal (ie less brumale). This once again increases the chances of cultivating the desired truffles here.
All year round, this is the land of plenty. Spring - branches of cherry trees bend under the weight of the fruits they bear. Summer - plums are crushed along the roads as they cannot be eaten quickly enough. Autumn - green citrus smelling husks shrivel back to release walnuts by the thousand. Winter - the ground is burgeoning with his secret treasure, the truffle, the black diamond, lying in silence, waiting to be discovered. Verdant and rich, plants thrive here in the warm French sun; on our sheltered south westerly slopes.
IRRIGATION AND AERATION
Truffles grow best with hot, dry summers punctuated by BIG rainfalls. This usually happens in this area prone to many stunning (and occasionally terrifying) summer thunderstorms, but rest assured, we have an irrigation system in place across the truffière to ensure the truffles are met with the best conditions and can realise their growing potential.
200 years ago, the experienced truffle hunter would maintain moisture in the soil during periods of drought by placing juniper branches over the ground. With pumps and hoses, we can now improve this practice with the sensitive and careful assistance of modern technology.
Aerating the soil is necessary to increase yields. The soil close to the trees is gently worked to a depth of around 10cm. Once again, this will be done as respectfully as possible as to not alter this naturally truffle producing site.
OUR FARMING VALUES
We aerate the soil and scarify the roots; prune the branches to ensure the soil beneath is is suitably heated by the sun (another very important aspect of truffle production); and harvest the truffles ourselves with the aid of dogs. But we do it all with extreme care and respect for the wildlife that inhabited this field long before us. We work the land and tend the trees as gently as possible without sacrificing productivity. Everything we do is carefully considered and executed with sensitivity. We are both scientists and are fascinated by the science surrounding all mushrooms and especially the black diamond, tuber melanosporum. However, we are very aware that there is a great deal more going on than what is known or recorded in scientific journals. It is for this reason, the mysteries around the black truffle, that we try to keep everything as 'bio' as possible and not interfere too much. Nature knows what she is doing and all we hope for is to encourage the growth of truffles while lessening our impact on the surrounding environment.
Biodiversity is core to our central beliefs. We only work the ground where we need to and leave strips between rows undisturbed. The field is home to many orchids, some very rare such as the lizard orchid, other wild flowers and grasses; insects such as species of mantid, butterfly and beetle; mammals such as the dormouse and a variety of birds. Of course there are plenty of wild boar and deer that live in the woods around us and often cross our land. Wild boar love truffles and can wreak havoc in a truffière and sadly for this reason they are not guests we can allow to come and go like the others mentioned above. Luckily, the local chasse and the use of electric fencing should provide our truffles with the best protection possible. The hedges and ditches around the truffière are excellent habitats as well as the undisturbed woodland on a different area our land that is unsuited to truffle production and donated to the wildlife of the valley.
Even the water used to irrigate the truffle trees is from one of the natural springs on the land. It is sustainable and chemical free.