Truffle Tree FAQ

Established, productive truffle orchard - southern England
Established, productive truffle orchard - southern England

A comprehensive set of truffle tree FAQ (frequently asked questions) telling you all you need to know about our truffle trees - growing, tree and truffle species, soils, planting, buying, delivery, travelling with trees and looking for truffles. If you have a question that is not covered here, please get in touch and we will try to help. If you want to know lots more we recommend this book for people thinking about growing truffles:

Taming the Truffle: The History, Lore, and Science of the Ultimate Mushroom – Ian R. Hall, Gordon T. Brown and Alessandra Zambonelli

Taming The Truffle - Ian Hall, Gordon Brown, Alessanda Zambonelli

Click on the titles to show / hide the questions in any section.

Growing Truffles


How long will it take for truffles to grow?
If you are successful in growing truffles, they generally appear after roughly 4 - 7 years from planting. We have heard of the first truffles being found after two years and as many as twelve.

Am I guaranteed to get truffles?
No. The trees are all certified as being inoculated with the appropriate truffle fungus. They will, however, only produce truffles under optimum conditions: if the tree remains healthy, is watered and the soil and climatic conditions are right then you may get truffles.

How long will I get truffles for?
If you are successful in growing truffles and the trees are maintained properly, you may continue to get truffles for 20 - 40 years.


Truffle and Tree Species


Which species of tree should I buy?
Your primary concern should be the size of the tree when it grows. Hazel is generally a shrub tree and smaller than an Oak. A Hazel can be coppiced (cut back) every 7 or so years to maintain it at a lower height. If left to grow it can reach 12 metres. A fully-grown Oak (English or Holm) can be over 15 metres high. For some more general information see these Woodland Trust pages:

Hazel
English Oak
Holm Oak

Which species of truffle should the trees I buy be inoculated with?
We offer a choice of

  • Black Summer Truffle (Tuber aestivum var uncinatum) – the commonest truffle species in Europe. It is a close cousin to the Black Winter (Périgord) Truffle though the aroma and flavour are less strong.
  • Whitish (Bianchetto) Truffle (Tuber borchii) – a cousin to the more expensive Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum). The aroma is similar although a little more garlicky.
  • Black Winter (Périgord) Truffle (Tuber melanosporum) – the most valuable and highly rated species of Black truffle.

Part of the answer to which truffle species to buy is to consider their natural distribution:

  • The Black Summer truffle is found growing naturally in many European countries including England. It is found, from Ireland to the Balkans, from Portugal to Finland.
  • The natural range of the Whitish truffle is close to that of the Summer truffle.
  • Naturally occurring Black Winter (Périgord) truffles are confined to Mediterranean areas such as parts southern France, Italy and Croatia.

However, in very recent years, Black Winter (Périgord) truffles have been successfully cultivated in the UK. We understand that this has been done at three locations – South Wales, Sandringham House in Norfolk under Prince Philip’s supervision (registration required to read full article) and another location in Norfolk. Recent research has shown that the climatic tolerance of these truffles is much broader than previously thought, and it is likely that this is only possible because of climate change. It is thought that some areas of the UK are now suitable for growing them, though clearly, it has only been demonstrated a small number of times. We hope to include a map of potentially suitable areas before too long.

If you unsure about your climate and which species of our truffles would grow there, see this link (PDF file). Note that Summer truffle is called Burgundy there. You will need to track down climate parameters for your area, but general figures can usually be found on-line. This data does not, at the time of writing, include Black Winter (Périgord) truffles for the UK as mentioned above.

Truffle and Tree Combinations
Not every combination of tree and truffle species is available. This table shows the combinations that you can order.

 Black Summer Truffle
(Tuber aestivum var uncinatum)
Whitish (Bianchetto) Truffle
(Tuber borchii)
Black Winter (Périgord) Truffle
(Tuber melanosporum)
English Oak
(Quercus robur)
ticktick
European Hazel
(Corylus avellana)
tickticktick
Evergreen (Holm) Oak
(Quercus ilex)
ticktick


Soils


What soil conditions are required?
The ideal soil for your truffle-tree has not been compacted, is well drained and alkaline (not acidic). pH is a measure of soil acidity and can be tested with simple kits from most garden centres. Ideal pH values are:

  • Black Summer Truffle - 7.3 – 8.0.
  • Whitish Truffle (Bianchetto) - 6.0 - 8.3
  • Black Winter (Périgord) Truffle - 7.5 - 8.5

If your pH is too low, then it can be easily increased by applying a small amount of lime to the planting site. Garden lime is available from most garden centres and should be raked-into the area where your tree will be planted. An excellent guide to lime and liming can be found here.


Planting


Detailed information is given in the planting and growing booklet that comes with your trees. Below are some additional points.

Warm weather
If you order trees in the summer they should be watered as soon as they arrive with you, kept in a cool place and watered occasionally until they are planted.

Waterlogged or frozen ground
You should plant your trees as soon as you can after receiving them. However, if the ground is frozen or waterlogged it is better to wait until conditions improve. Trees can be kept for a few days in the package in a dry and frost-free place such as an unheated garage or shed. If you are keeping them longer before planting, you can do the same but occasionally water to avoid them drying out.

Spacing
When grown in rows the standard spacings are:

  • Summer truffle - 2 metres between trees and 3 metres between rows.
  • Black Winter (Périgord) truffle - 3 metres between trees and 3 metres between rows.

Planting near other trees
Existing trees may have fungi growing on them and their roots. It is possible that these fungi may compete with the truffle fungus so general advice is that you should separate truffle trees from existing ones either through distance or a physical barrier such as polythene dug-in to a depth of 0.5 metres. However, existing trees fall into two groups:

  • Those that can be grown adjacent to truffle trees without the risk of competing fungi.
  • Those that may harbour fungi that compete with truffle fungi. These plants cause problems if they are present in an area where a truffle trees are to be established or if they are included in windbreaks.

Lists of trees in each of these two categories are given in Appendix 1 and 2 respectively within the book we recommend Taming The Truffle, they can also be found on on-line here (PDF file). These are global lists so many species are not grown in Europe.

Should I add compost?
When planting the tree, do not add compost or peat to the soil, this makes it more acidic and can kill off the truffle fungus.

Should I add fertiliser?
Do not add any fertiliser to the soil when planting the tree. High phosphorus levels, as found in many fertilisers, hinder the union between fungus and host tree.

Should I mulch the trees?
A mulch can be used around the base to control weeds, however you should avoid any mulch that may have been treated with a fungicide.

Should I protect the trees?
A mesh guard or tree shelter will protect the young tree against damage by animals such as deer, hares or mice. For windy sites, stakes should be used.

Watering
Insufficient watering is the main reason for new trees dying. You should water trees planted in the ground for the first two summers. Trees planted in pots will continue to need watering. This link gives excellent advice on watering new trees (please ignore the bit on mulching). It is preferable to use rainwater (from your water butt) to tap water.

Can I grow truffle trees in pots?
Ideally the trees should be planted in the ground, however truffles can be grown with pot grown trees in very large pots. Planting the trees in pots will reduce the number of truffles you might get, as it will limit the tree growth. For the best results plant more than one tree in a pot so the roots can interact. If you decide to plant them into the ground in the future, put the entire contents of the pot into the ground without disturbing. Please note that pot grown trees (especially Oaks) will need frequent watering in periods of hot weather e.g. every other day.

Can I put some sheep in my truffle orchard? It would certainly keep the grass down which would be great. Are sheep likely to disturb any truffles or their environment?
The issue is ground compaction. It could be risked during the summer when the ground is dry but our expert says they wouldn't unless the sheep were being closely monitored and even then with only a few lighter footed sheep.

Buying


When should I buy truffle trees?
We supply them at any time of the year, however, the best time to plant them is in the dormant period between November and March. If you buy them in the summer they should be watered as soon as they arrive with you, kept in a cool place and watered occasionally until they are planted. We do not usually recommend sending trees to warmer countries when it will be hotter.

What if I can't plant them immediately?
Trees can be kept for a few days (a week or so) in the package in a dry and frost free place such as an unheated garage or shed. If you are keeping them longer before planting (or the weather is warm) you can do the same but occasionally water to avoid them drying out.

How big are the trees when I buy them?
The hazel trees are between 60cm - 90cm tall, the oak trees vary in size from around 15cm to 40cm. All the trees are approximately 1 year old.

Are bigger / older trees available?
No, we only sell them as above. Having a bigger tree doesn’t accelerate the process towards trying to get truffles. The truffle fungus still needs to spread into the soil around the tree and mature.

Can I have a different number of trees?
Yes, of course. For a different number of trees please contact us.

Can I have a different combination of tree species?
Yes, of course. For a different combination of tree species, please select "Other combination" from the list of Tree species and then put your requirements in the "Order Notes" at the checkout.

Can I have a combination of truffle species?
Yes, of course. If you are ordering more than one tree and would like them to have different truffle species, please select "Mixed Species" and put your requirements in the "Order Notes" at the checkout.

Do your hazel trees produce hazelnuts?
Yes, they will. The pH needed for truffle cultivation is higher than optimal for nut production, but they still produce quite large nuts (if you get to them before the squirrels!). The Hazels are the European Hazel (Corylus avellana) and the variety "Kentish Cob". They are monoecious meaning both male and female flowers are on the same plant. Pollination is by wind and is better with 2 or more plants.


Delivery

UK Standard Delivery

Can I order the trees to arrive on a specific date?
We would recommend you use the express delivery service which delivers within 2 working days of us processing your order. Please note that occasionally, we may not be around to process your order immediately or the volume of orders to process may not make this possible.

Do I need to be in to receive my trees?
No, the UK standard delivery service we use does not require a signature. It does however help if you give us details of where they should be left if no one is in. In summer this should be somewhere cool - not in a greenhouse or sunny porch! A contact telephone number can be useful if the courier has problems.

How long does the UK standard delivery take?
Trees typically take up to 7 working days to arrive (usually a lot less). If you would like them quicker please use the Express Delivery option.

UK Express Delivery

Do I need to be in to receive my trees?
Yes, a signature is required.

How long does UK express delivery take?
The express delivery service delivers within 2 working days (subject to us being around to process your order).

International Delivery

Do I need to be in to receive my trees?
This will vary with different couriers.

How long does international delivery take?
You should allow 7 days for international delivery after we have processed your order. It is subject to customs and the postal service in your country.


Travelling With Trees


Some customers take their trees to overseas properties. The trees come with the roots in sterilised soil which is wrapped in cling-film. You should water them before you go and replace the cling-film / put them in the boxes. If they are being transported by car, do not park in a hot sunny place, but in shade. Water them when you arrive too if it has been warm.

Some customers have carried our trees overseas in their suitcases! You should only do this within the EU to avoid breaching plant health regulations.


Looking For Truffles


Truffles are traditionally found with the aid of an untrained pig who will naturally seek out the truffles. However, these days commercial truffle farms use trained dogs as they are less likely to eat the truffle and work more quickly and usually more efficiently. If you only have a few trees then you may be able to find truffles without a pig or trained dog, using the following techniques:

1) If you look carefully around your trees you may notice small cracks in the ground, underneath these cracks there may lurk truffles.

2) You can look for the presence of the ‘truffle-fly’. This is a small fly that hovers directly over where truffles are buried. If you disturb the top layer of soil and look closely you may be able to see these light brown, "lazy" flies hovering over the surface. This is normally an indication that a truffle is lurking directly below.

Truffle FlyTruffle Fly

3) Smell. Although the human nose is a pretty poor utensil in comparison to our canine friends, you may be able to use it to locate truffles. If you get on your hands and knees (ignoring any strange looks from neighbours) and sniff the ground directly you may be able to locate ripe truffles by their scent alone.

4) The final, and most destructive, method of looking for truffles is to gently scrape away the top layer of soil around your trees. This should be done very slowly and delicately to minimise damage and ensure you locate any truffles. This technique can be used if you are desperate but is not recommended as it is so destructive.