As truffle season kicks into gear, the French are taking drastic measures to save their highly-prized black truffle, which sells for more than a $1000 a kilo. Apparently, 40 to 50 tons per year (the current output) of the pungent, lumpy fungus with reported aphrodisiac powers isn’t enough to satiate the bon vivants. A hundred years ago, the country was producing 1,000 tons per year of truffle, but global warming and the decline of farming have made the delicacy harder to find.
Truffles are tricky to grow. They require a symbiotic relationship with specific types of trees. The Black Périgord Truffle, known as the “black diamond,” grows exclusively on the roots of oak trees.
Now, as a last ditch effort to save the truffle industry, French scientists are turning to cloning. The Financial Times reports:
Their goal is to unlock the secrets of black truffle production – the soil, climate or the trees – and hopefully revive an endangered industry by producing a more consistent crop.
The project will involve culturing cloned truffles together with tree saplings in rows of sterile test tubes until they form their crucial symbiotic relationship, a process that can take up to a year. Once the pair is established they will be planted out to mature naturally.
No one’s knows whether cloned truffles will taste like wild-growing ones—although, if these test-tube truffles do take, truffle dogs and truffle hogs would be out of business.
DISCOVER: The Biology of …Truffles
Image: flickr / foodistablog