A new island resident has had cause to celebrate recently after being behind the first cultivation of a truffle on British soil.
Dr Paul Thomas, who moved to the island in December with his wife and two children, plants truffles worldwide in his company ‘Mycorrhizal Systems Ltd’, but it was in a field of one of his plantations in Leicestershire that he unearthed the ‘summer’ or ‘burgundy’ truffle, weighing in at 39g.
Dr Thomas, who also appeared on the first series of Dragons’ Den, said: “ “We made history. I’m thrilled. We need more growing partners now to help up raise the prominence and reputation of the British truffle industry to the level it deserves”.
Truffles are a type of fungi that grow on the root system of living trees. They help the tree to grow and the tree helps the fungus. This relationship is called ‘mycorrhizal’ and it is symbiotic. To grow truffles, a sterile environment is created and then the fungus is introduced to the root system. Once the fungus is attached and growing on the root system, they are nurtured for a year before the trees are planted into carefully prepared field sites. After planting, the plantations have to be carefully monitored and managed to ensure success. The most common host trees for truffle cultivation are English oak (Quercus robur) and hazel (Corylus avellana), although a few other species can be used.
Wild truffles were once fairly common in Britain, but the loss of most of the country’s ancient woodland, compounded by modern farming methods, means truffles are now extremely rare.
There may also be plans to grow the fungus on Bute, as Dr Thomas explained: “We love the island and environment, and it’s a superb growing environment.
“We’ll certainly be getting a few truffle trees in the ground.”