For Some Northern California Farms, a Black Truffle Explosion Means Big Bucks

It took several years, but the investment is finally paying off.

Thanks to planning, and a little bit of wishin’ and hopin’, a handful of Northern California farms are reaping the rewards of a recent truffle explosion. While truffles can be grown in other parts of the U.S., the California climate is most similar to that of the truffle’s native Southern Europe. And according to the S.F. Chronicle, that growing potential led local farmers to take a gamble on cultivating the precious, and pricey, delicacies in places like Santa Rosa and Placerville.

“About a decade ago, California-grown black or Périgord truffles were at best a dream, and at worst a long shot. That’s when about a dozen farmers started planting orchards of hazelnut and oak trees, their roots inoculated with Tuber melanosporum spores. If the orchard was carefully tended, the first black truffles could form within five to eight years, though it would take a couple more years for an orchard to really bear fruit.

“It’s happening: For the first time, California has a truffle season, which goes from December into March, as growers are making serious progress toward creating a viable locally grown version of the European luxury ingredient.

“’You could almost smell the earth coming off them,’” says Micah Malcolm of Taste Restaurant and Wine Bar in Plymouth (Amador County), who shaved farmer Staci O’Toole’s Placerville black truffles over mushroom ravioli for a $120 New Year’s Eve menu and was willing to spend an extra $15 per ounce over the price of imported truffles. ‘It’s the earthy, sweet smell that is very captivating. Shaving it over something warm makes the oils break down. You could just smell it in the whole restaurant.’”

Read more about California’s truffle boom here.