Truffles trigger gourmet gold rush

Truffles are a delicacy that grace the world's top tables and can command a price more than ten times that of silver.Now Norfolk's fertile soils have been pinpointed as a treasure trove for the “black diamonds” that promises to spark a gourmet gold rush to the region.

Truffles are a delicacy that grace the world's top tables and can command a price more than ten times that of silver.

Now Norfolk's fertile soils have been pinpointed as a treasure trove for the “black diamonds” that promises to spark a gourmet gold rush to the region.

Internationally recognised truffle expert Marie Anne French has chosen the market town of Watton as her base to transform East Anglia into one of the world's foremost producers of the gastronomic delight.

Forget pigs rooting around in the French soil, Mrs French says that East Anglia's chalky, well mixed earth is the perfect bedrock on which to

build an industry of truffle growers.

She named the Watton area as an unlikely truffle hotspot following months of research and after uncovering three of the fungi and eight growing sites locally in September.

Most Read

Truffles are highly prized for their extraordinary aromatic nutty flavour and fetch a hefty price, with the black truffle uncinatum having sold for up to £820 a kilo and a large white truffle recently fetching £30,000.

The scaled fungi, renowned for

their aphrodisiac qualities, grow underground, with four dark edible species found in the UK that sprout from the roots of oak, beech, hazel and other trees.

Not only will her business GroSol help people uncover the luxury nibbles beneath their feet, but she will also provide trees inoculated with truffle spores and training on how and when to harvest them using specially taught dogs.

“I want to generate an industry around here and encourage farmers and landowners to be able to

produce tonnes of truffles,” she said dressed in her trademark bowler

hat.

“There is a world market ready and a growing 'home gourmet market'. There will be people out there who already have them growing in their gardens - they just need to know what to look for.

“It is a crop for wet years, so it can be a buffer for when other crops are down and the ideal environment for it is the strips that farmers often leave at the side of their fields.”

Despite their high price tag, she says truffles are no longer the preserve of the privileged.

“Eating a truffle is a unique experience, the flavour and the smell of it is taken in through the eyes, nose and mouth; it is an event that you do not forget,” she said.

Her business will survey potential truffle-growing sites for suitability

but she said that a large producer would need about three hectares of land.

Find out more by visiting an exhibition by GroSol at Wayland House in Watton High Street from Saturday, November 10 to Sunday, November 17 between 9.30am-4pm. Contact GroSol on 01953 884672 oror French.marie@grosol.co.uk or visit www.grosol.co.uk for more information.

TRUFFLE FACTS

The origin of the word truffle appears to lie in the Latin term “tuber”, meaning “lump”.

The world's most expensive truffle was 1.51 kilo rare White Alba truffle which sold for about £86,250.

Despite people realising that truffles grew at the roots of trees they long eluded domestication , with the first recorded attempts in Southern France, known as “trufficulture”, in the early 1800s.

Many secrets of cultivating truffles were lost after the First World War killed more than 20pc of the France's male work force.

It is estimated that the world market could absorb 50 times more truffles than France currently produces.

There are now truffle-growing areas in Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, Oregon, North Carolina, Tennessee and the UK.

White or black paper-thin truffle slices may be inserted into meats , under the skins of roasted fowl , in foie gras preparations, in pâtés , or in stuffings . Some specialty cheeses contain truffles as well.

The flavor of black truffles is far less pungent and more refined than that of white truffles. It is reminiscent of fresh earth and mushrooms , and when fresh, their scent fills a room almost instantly.

The inhabitants of ancient Greece and Rome are said to have used truffles as an aphrodisiac, and poet Lord Byron kept one on his desk for inspiration.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter