White truffle 'orchards' may help bring pricy pasta topping to the masses, French researchers say

Rare white truffles can typically sell for around $1,000 per pound

An abundance of rare and expensive white truffles could soon be grown outside their natural habitat, and potentially reach more consumers. 

French researchers have discovered a way to produce rare Italian white truffles at an orchard in France outside of their natural element, according to a new report. The truffles, also known as T. magnatum or Tuber magnatum Pico, are typically found in the forests of northern Italy and other European countries, where they grow in specific climate conditions that allow for ample water during the growing season between September and December.

Prized for their earthy flavor and haute-cuisine appeal, these rarest of the fungi are often served freshly shaven over pasta or used in fragrant sauces and oils, and can sell for upwards of $1,000 per pound.

Researchers may have found a way to cultivate expensive white truffles worldwide. (iStock). 

Researchers may have found a way to cultivate expensive white truffles worldwide. (iStock). 

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Generally, truffle hunters use dogs and pigs to sniff out the rare morsels. But the first orchard-grown harvest was successfully produced in 2019, according to the French researchers. As noted the authors of the paper, published recently in the journal Mycorrhiza, the white truffles were able to live for up to eight years after being planted in soil. And another successful harvest followed in 2020.

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To produce white truffles, the fungi need to have a symbiotic relationship with their host trees called "ectomycorrhizal association," so researchers worked to cultivate this climate condition, Claude Murat, a research engineer at the French National Research Institute for Agriculture, Food and Environment (INRAE), told Food & Wine.

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"These results demonstrate the feasibility of T. magnatum cultivation worldwide," researchers wrote in the study. "The cultivation of T. magnatum could therefore become a real opportunity for farmers and could respond to the high demand of this high-priced food." 

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