To Satisfy Lust for Truffles, The French Will Try to Clone Them

By Nina Bai | December 5, 2008 4:24 pm

truffleAs 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.

Related Content:
DISCOVER: The Biology of …Truffles

Image: flickr / foodistablog

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Food, Nutrition, & More Food
MORE ABOUT: France, fungus, truffles
  • Will

    While they are at it, they should genetically modify them so they don’t look like radioactive lumps of coal. If they looked like chocolate truffles… then they might actually be delicious.

  • Amos Kenigsberg (Discover Web Editor)

    Yes, they would look better if they’d been exposed to fewer röntgens — but that would make them so much less appealing to the true gourmands.

  • Jumblepudding

    On the British reality show, Dragon’s Den, where people present their business ideas to rich potential investors and ask for investment money, one of the contestants managed to sell his idea of growing trees with a method he didn’t disclose, which would make the likelihood of truffles growing on them almost 100%. I wonder if this is related, or if he is now a competitor.

  • ForGodSake

    Cloning is wrong! i dont care what you are cloning, or why its wrong to take gods creations and taint them and in some ways try to play god yourself to make more!!!

  • http://etc.jonathannguyen.net Jonathan Nguyen

    Isn’t the fact that it’s so rare the reason why it’s so desirable? By being able to mass produce, would people no longer want them so badly?

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