Black truffles – one of the most expensive food ingredients in the world – have been successively cultivated in Ireland for the first time ever.
The summer or ‘Burgundy’ black truffle has been cultivated by Prof. Paul W. Thomas of the University of Sterling in Scotland, who also works with the company Mycorrhizal Systems, that specialises in truffle cultivation.
Prof. Thomas and his associates began this project 10 years ago, with the truffles only being discovered last month.
In fact, they regard this as so significant that they are not disclosing the exact location of where these fungi were found.
They did, however, divulge that the location is around 100km from Dublin, and that local farmers were partners in the project.
Approximately 200g of truffles – about €180 worth – were found in November by a dog trained specifically for that purpose.
In days gone by, pigs were used to sniff out truffles, having a natural affinity for them. Unfortunately, this also meant that they would try to eat them – something not copied by dogs.
The largest single truffle found last month weighed 100g – that’s one single truffle that could be worth up to €90.
The fungi were growing with the root system of native oak trees that had been treated to encourage truffle production. Analysis then confirmed that the find was the summer or Burgundy variety, which is highly sought after in high-class cuisine.
Mycorrhizal Systems says that, once cultivation begins, production “increases rapidly” and the site can remain productive for decades, with truffles harvested annually.
Truffles grow below ground in a symbiotic relationship with the root system of trees in soils with a high limestone content. However, in this case acidic soils were used and made suitable with agricultural lime.
This variety of truffle is valued in cooking for their strong flavour and smell. They are more commonly found in southern and Mediterranean parts of Europe. However, drought in those areas is resulting in falling yields, while global demand goes up.
According to Mycorrhizal Systems, this means that countries traditionally not associated with truffle production may gain a foothold in the market.
This would be a welcome boost for farmers and landowners, considering that the truffle industry is projected to be worth €4.5 billion annually in the next 10 to 20 years, the company said.
“Our aim was to produce truffles in Ireland, eventually leading to an export crop and a valuable diversification for landowners. The success has been a dream come true,” Prof. Thomas said.