This area was last mowed around a month ago. Autumn rain has greened the orchard, and the trees with active truffle colonies are quite visible.
Within the truffle burn (brulé -french for burnt) there is still some live grasses, but the burns are quite distinct compared to the inactive trees. There no herbicides used in our truffle orchard at any time, the visible depletion of grass above is entirely due to the action of the truffle mycelium in the soil, where it lives on the tree’s roots.
There is a newly producing tree centre of the photograph and two more trees with truffles at 2 and 10 o’clock positions. There are also nice brule’s around the trees in the foreground, left and centre right. As can be seen elsewhere in the photo, not all the trees have visible signs of truffle activity, and may never develop any.
Does a brulé mean there will be truffles? Simple answer, no, it’s just more likely to produce. There are other competing fungi that can cause burns, and the truffle may not be ready to fruit this season, or lack some other requirement. Active trees can also skip a few seasons before producing again, or become fully inactive.
Loose leaf litter is raked away from the brulé as it provides an environment for insects.
The hazel suckers are removed, sometimes leaving one and removing an angular branch. The primary goal of this is a tree shape which promotes soil warmth in Spring which start’s next season’s truffle activity.
Grass near the trunk is removed by careful cultivation, removing insect shelter.
There are also three near surface truffles on this tree (white tags), and a rotten one was removed.
This process took an hour, and there are 400 hazelnut trees in the truffle orchard, so priority is currently given to active trees. The rest will be done as time permits.
Oak trees are easier to clear, but a little late for this as it one had a rotten truffle on the left side of the trunk, with insects sheltering in the grass likely culprits. The tree was double trunked several years ago, and was converted to a single with gradual pruning for minimal impact on growth.
Although truffles first form in December, the first visible signs generally show in late February or Autumn. These surface signs occur on the portion of the truffles that have either formed too close to the surface, or become so large a substantial amount of soil has been pushed toward the surface.
With access opened to the truffle via the cracks in the soil, these truffles are more susceptible to insect damage (Eg. slater & millipede in second pic above). Regular searches for such signs, inspection and removal of rotten/damaged truffles, and covering the good ones is an important task at this time of year. Rabbit’s that manage to get past the fencing are also attracted to the disturbed soil, and expose the truffles, sometimes learning to eat them too..
Along with other tasks, Autumn is now a full time job. For every days work in harvest season, there’s around 5 days in supporting work such as this.
Simple recipe that works well, birch boletes have a beefy taste, and are described as “meat of the forest” in Russia
Not a truffle recipe, but they grow on our farm, and a combination of dried bolete’s in a truffle rissotto is eagerly anticipated.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 Shallot, finely sliced
1 Garlic Clove, pressed
Bowl of Birch Boletes ~250g, sliced ~7mm thick
Dollop of cream, 1 to 2 tablespoons
salt to taste
Slice caps ~7mm thick, soft stems crosswise, and set aside dry woody stems for use elsewhere in a stock base.
Heat oil in frying pan on low heat, add butter and melt together. Increase the heat, and add shallot and garlic, fry for around a minute. Add the boletes and cook with occasional stirring until most of the boletes have softened/changed colour. Add the cream and generous pinch of salt and stir lightly for a further minute until it visible changes to a sauced consistency.
Serve Hot. Divine with gnocchi, or combines wonderfully with mashed potato and roast lamb.