Truffles, Truffle Certification and Importing

DESCRIPTION & HISTORY

Truffles are an edible fungus sought after by gourmets around the world. The Perigord black truffle (T. Melanosporum) in particular, ranks with saffron, caviar and foie gras as the most elite of fine foods. Of the many species of black truffle found throughout the world connoisseurs are unanimous that T. Melanosporum ranks the best. The black Périgord truffle originated in France, Italy and Spain.

Truffles are the fruit of an underground fungal colony of truffle spore that, unable to produce their own food, unite with the tree rootlets to develop symbiotic organs. The black Perigord fungus provides water, minerals and antibiotic protection to the tree, which in turn provides nutrients photo-synthesized in the tree canopy such as sugar used by the fungus to produce truffles.

Black Perigord truffles have been hunted for thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans ate and enjoyed truffles, calling them the Food of the Gods.

Perigord black truffles begin to form in spring and summer and mature in the fall and winter. The aromatic and pungent truffles are hunted using the help of dogs bred and trained for truffle hunting. Truffles are harvested daily through the season to ensure they are harvested at the optimum moment of ripeness.

Truffles are sold either as fresh produce or used to add their distinctive flavour to preserves, sauces and condiments in a wide variety of value-added products.

CERTIFICATION

Black Perigord truffles are the elite variety of truffles world-wide. The French have grown truffles for centuries and have very strict Certification protocols ensuring the quality of the Black Perigord truffle. Ducketts' have relied on France for their testing and credibility.

Working with B.C. Agriculture, Federal Food/Plant Protocol, British Columbia Agriculture Council, British Columbia Hazelnut Association and the newly formed Truffle Association of British Columbia, Duckett Truffieres are proud of being Canada's first producer of Black Perigord inoculated trees(2003), and Canada’s first producer of Black Perigord truffles in 2007. Committed to organic practices, Ducketts are also working with World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms.

When Duckett Truffieres began in 2000, Canadian Agriculture had not considered truffle production.
By 2003 Ducketts were growing and marketing truffle trees inoculated with French Black Perigord spores.

A Canadian Truffle! How are they different than Europe’s masterpieces?

How different are the growing requirements, management, harvesting?

In Canada we have years of testing to do prior to establishing credibility in test results. Care in the use of pure Certified inoculums, a precise inoculation process, detailed observations, meticulous record-keeping and extensive ongoing testing and sequencing will lead to a certification standard that will ensure the Canadian Black Perigord truffle meets a world-respected level of quality, purity and value.

To our knowledge Ducketts have produced the only harvests of black Perigord truffles raised in Canada, a milestone in Canadian agriculture. These truffles, grown from phytosanitized spore will establish a valid foundation for the development of Canadian standards.

In order to establish the highest standards possible for the trufficulture industry in Canada, Duckett Truffieres have morphologically tested and documented the results from the first Canadian truffle harvest.

During Ducketts early years of harvest, DNA testing of Canadian truffles was not available in Canada. Though many samples were sent, the University had not yet established parameters. They were still denying Black perigord could be grown in Canada.

ABOUT IMPORTING

Tree Stock

International, Federal and Provincial agricultural import regulations are in place to ensure that foreign soils and disease are not brought in with imported plant materials. ALL of our 10,000-plus truffle trees have been sprouted and grown on site at Duckett Truffieres from disease-free hardy Vancouver Island seed, acorns and nuts. We caution all potential growers to be certain they are not risking the importation of tree diseases that are commonly found in many parts of North America. We believe the only truly safe starting point is from seeds produced by trees growing for years in a disease-free area of BC, preferably right here on Vancouver Island or the nearby Gulf Islands.

Truffle Spore

The Certified phytosanitized inoculum is imported under strict protocols and practices from France. One certification ensures the exact identity of the inoculum (T. Melanosporum) and a second certification ensures it carries no foreign soil, disease or pest threats.

With this pre-emptive action and appropriate controls, Duckett Truffieres are confident they will avoid contamination or substitution of T. Melanosporum for inferior species. We believe trufficulture in Canada will flourish and become B.C.'s most rewarding small agricultural initiative if we take care to protect the host trees, the soil and the truffle spore from contamination.

A part of our ongoing monitoring and documentation is microscopic root analysis. We hold our breath each debriefing, when the roots are analysed and show marvelous colonization results. The new picture on the right taken in the lab shows an interesting root colonization typical of t.Melanosporum.

Truffles and Sex: Truffle Reproduction

A French-Italian team of researchers coordinated by the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) has decoded the genome of the Périgord black truffle! They found two different sets of mating genes, suggesting that two strains of T. melanosporum with opposite mating types combined through sexual reproduction. The goal of the genome project is to find the genes responsible for fruiting body (the edible truffle) development and for the symbiosis between the host tree and the t. Melanosporum fungus.

This will identify the reproductive stages and conditions that trigger the fruiting body of T. Melanosporum to develop and grow.

The importance of genetic diversity in the truffiere is easily apparent - truffles have the largest known mushroom genome with 125 million base pairs. Ducketts use naturally-sourced spore inoculum, not a cloned product, to ensure genetic diversity, the vital link to plantation success.

Ducketts are pioneering ongoing microscopic anaylsis of T. Melanosporum growth and development in a planned truffiere. The life cycle of t. Melanosporum has three stages:
  1. Reproductive stage (fruiting body)
  2. A vegetative phase (free-living mycelium)
  3. A symbiotic phase (mycorrhizas)

Photos taken in the lab but very rarely seen or photographed in the world of trufficulture, are on the right:

  • A picture of mature spores
  • A sprouting spore (highly magnified)
  • The Hartig Net indicating early colonization of a tree root system
  • Small visible fruiting bodies in the root system of a potted inoculated tree.

This has not, to our knowledge, been shown in photos since 1969 when Fassi and Fontana filmed truffle production in potted inoculated trees in controlled conditions (ref "Mycorrhiza: State of the Art, Genetics and Molecular Biology, Eco-Function, Biotechnology, Eco-Physiology, Structure and Systematics" edited by Dr. Ajit Varma).

Perigord Black Truffles raised in Canada at Duckett Truffieres on Vancouver Island
Black Perigord Truffle spore under a microscope
Duckett truffles
Spore infected rootlets
An interesting microscopic truffle root spore infection
Magnified mature black perigord truffle spores
Magnified black perigord truffle spore sprouting.
The hartig net growth in the trial birch  roots indicates successful t melanosporum colonization.
Small new fruit bodies (truffles) visible in the root system of a potted inoculated tree.
Black Perigord Truffles in the ground awaiting harvest at Duckett Truffieres

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