We'd all love to make money from our hobbies but for most gardeners selling home-grown veg isn't enough to pay the mortgage. However invest in a truffle tree and you could have a goldmine in your own back garden.
British horticulturalists have made it possible for us to grow the luxury food at home — and there's definitely money to be made. Prices have been known to reach £10,000 a kilo for the coveted ingredient. In 2004 a single (rare) Italian white truffle sold at a charity auction for a staggering £28,000.
The Daily Mirror reports that Devon company Suttons Seeds is selling "truffle trees" — 3 feet hazel tree saplings, the roots of which have been impregnated with truffle fungi. The trees will eventually grow to a height of 20 feet but can be kept significantly smaller with pruning. After implantation the fungi starts to grow but a great deal of patience is required as it will take between four and seven years for the first truffle crop to appear.
However the pay off can be big: after the first crop the tree will keep producing truffles for 25 years. Although there is no guarantee that the tree will produce truffles Suttons' senior horticultural manager, Tom Sharples, says "they’re given the best chance they can have when they leave" the centre and "the rest is down to the grower."
"Truffles are a kind of 'underground mushroom' that grow on the roots of certain tree species," explained Sharples. "They are highly prized by top chefs and connoisseurs for their exquisite, intense flavour and can be used to add an indulgent twist on everything from pasta and seafood to scrambled eggs.
"The summer truffle is very similar to the winter truffle although milder in flavour, but it's much more at home in cooler climates and in the U.K. has been reported to have been found as far north as Scotland. The young hazel trees we're supplying are a U.K. grown native whose roots have been inoculated with native truffle fungi. It means that when they're planted the truffles are encouraged to grow. We use hazels because they are quick growers but also because you can keep them under control."
If you fancy trying to make money from truffle trees pick up your own from Suttons (£30).
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