Truffles are elusive underground mushrooms that have a symbiotic relationship with the roots of trees. The edible and rare varieties have an amazing taste and are prized by gourmands around the world.
Truffles are one of the most expensive agricultural products in the world and cultivation is a profitable business. The black diamond truffle (Tuber melanosporum) sells for over €1000 (+-R13,400) per kilogram, second to the winter white truffle (Tuber magnatum,) which typically goes for over €4000 (+-R53,600) per kilogram.
Last month, a large white truffle from Italy sold for $61,250 (+-R706,800) at an auction in New York.
The first South African black diamond truffle
Farmer, Cameron Anderson, 34, first became interested in truffle cultivation during a trip to New Zealand. Near Dullstroom in Mpumalanga, Anderson has a plantation of 500 oak trees. He had been trying, unsuccessfully, for nine seasons, but finally, his efforts are starting to pay off.
Anderson and his self-trained dog, Shammy, a nine-year-old female Weimeraner, unearthed a tuber melanosporum; or what experts are touting to be first South African black diamond truffle, as reported by The Guardian.
Agricultural scientist Neil van Rij examined the black truffle under a microscope and DNA tested it. After being transported to Italy for a second opinion, it was confirmed to be legitimate.
Van Rij, 41, who has been inoculating truffle fungi on to the roots of oak trees for years, telling people that it would grow in South Africa, is thrilled about the discovery. Volker Miros, 74, truffle producer and founder of Woodford Truffles SA is also excited about the news.
Anderson nibbled a portion of his find after requesting the head chef of the five-star restaurant at the Michelangelo hotel in Johannesburg to prepare it for him.
Watch head chef of the Michelangelo Hotel, Rob Creaser, talking to us in studio about cooking SA's first black diamond truffle...
Truffle farming in South Africa
Wild truffles have previously been found in South Africa but the dream for commercial production only started ten years ago. South Africa is targeting black truffles, the second most valuable species, for the future.
Leon Potgieter, mycologist and co-owner of African Truffles, considers South Africa’s soils and climates more suitable than those of Europe for truffle orchards, and is confident that the industry will boom.
Potgieter, 37, believes discretion and modesty will be called for when keeping orchards of valuable fungi in South Africa, as truffle crimes are very real.
Get your truffle hog trained, and let's go truffle hunting!
If the thought of rare delicacies has you salivating, try this wild mushroom and truffle oil risotto or simple perfection in truffle scrambled eggs.
If your mind is wandering to the chocolatey version, these African Amarula gilded chocolate truffles will definitely hit the spot!
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