Natural production of truffles in our forests has greatly decreased along all the producing countries, due to climatic factors (increased droughts, especially during the summer months) and also to social factors, such as the progressive abandonment of rural areas by their inhabitants.
Rural areas depopulation meant that truffles have been progressively losing their favourable environment. The black truffle requires sunny and open environments, which were once maintained by techniques which were part of the rural operation (grazing, logging, etc …) and which prevented the mountains to be completely covered by forest trees. Within depopulated and abandoned rural areas there has also been a progressive and alarming decline in the worldwide production of black truffles.
During the early last century about 1,000 tons (t) of black truffle was produced in France (with peaks up to 2,000 t). These days all French production, in a good year, does not exceed 40-50 t.
At this time, it is still possible try to grow black truffles by planting trees mycorrhizal with Tuber melanosporum (oaks). These trees which, freshly sprouted from the acorn, are inoculated with truffle spores in their roots, leading to the formation of so-called “mycorrhizae”. These trees, if planted in the adequate soil, and throughout appropriate care and cultivation techniques, can start producing our precious fruit after 8-12 years.
Are there differences between naturally-grown and farm-grown truffles?
There are not appreciable differences between truffles grown in the forest or plantation-harvested. Both are the same fruit from the fungus Tuber melanosporum, and in both cases they grow in a completely natural way. Moreover, in the case of plantation truffles, as we are able to work the ground and create the ideal conditions, the truffle grows with a more regular and rounded shape. In addition, as we can water it during the driest periods of summer (when truffles need more water) the harvested fungus has a bigger size and therefore a greater value on the market.