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Friday, June 10, 2011

Where Does the Time Go?

Seems like yesterday I was sitting here blogging away. Then Memorial Day happened and I got caught up in all things truffles and blogging slipped my mind.  Honestly, that's not all that slipped my mind but -- that's a whole different story.  Now, where was I?

Oh Yes, the Martha Stewart Show.  When we returned from New York, we had to get back in the orchards quickly.  The February trip was right in the middle of the harvest season and we were most anxious to see if we could find more truffles.  We did.  That first year's harvest yielded just over 5 lbs. of truffles.  It wasn't as much as we had hoped for but it was a start.  The fact that we had truffles at all was really extremely exciting and gratifying.  We had local chefs at Noble's Grille in Winston-Salem and Chef Leigh Hesling at Green Valley Grill, Greensboro in addition to Andrea Reusing at Lantern Restaurant as customers in that first year.  The chefs we supplied and the one who got to use the truffles which Martha took back to New York with her confirmed that North Carolina truffles are every bit as good as European truffles.  Of course, freshness had to play a big part in that but we are certain from our own comparisons that our truffles are equally as good if not better.  The confirmations from them and our experience with Martha Stewart combined with a little monetary reward really encouraged us to keep on keeping on. 

You might think that being on the Martha Stewart Show really put us on the map; that we would be well on the way to our own celebrity and world renown.  Not so.  It will be a long time yet before we have that kind of recognition and the only thing that will bring it is more truffle production and continuing to sell them and educate people about truffles being grown in the U.S.  We have our work cut out for us.  Lots of people still think we're growing chocolate until they get the educational spiel.  What it did do, however, was get me lots of opportunity to give the spiel.  I have spoken at almost every garden club in the Winston-Salem area and told the truffle story to lots of gardeners.  People enjoy the story and I enjoy telling it so we all usually have a pretty good time.  It also increased the farm tour popularity.  Joining the NC Agritourism Association was a good move.  If you have a farm story to tell, partner with Martha Glass at NC Ag.  She is amazing!
www.ncagr.gov/agritourism - Office resource website
www.VisitNCFarms.com - Farms to visit across NC!
I know you may get tired of hearing me say this but -- What you need to know about truffle growing is that it is a high risk enterprise and plenty of hard work goes into growing this crop.  You should consider it from every angle before investing in your dream of truffle production.  We have worked very hard and, up to this point, we feel that every indication is that we will ultimately be successful but there are no guarantees.  (I'm writing this blog chronologically as I remember our experience.  We are 11 years in at the time of this post.)  It is impossible to predict what your harvest will be.  You literally do not know until the dogs start finding them.    Remember, it was at the 6 year mark that we found the first truffles.  The rule of thumb is that they usually appear between years 5 and 8.  We did find evidence of truffles having been there the previous year.  They were completely rotten.  The only benefit of them being left in the ground is the possibility that they may have re-inoculated the roots in the vicinity where they were.  We never considered leaving them intentionally but some folks in France stop harvesting when they know more truffles are still there with that very intention.  Some French say that the truffles come in waves and that after the 3rd wave at the end of February or the very first of March, you should stop harvesting and leave what truffles are left to shed the spores in the ground.  They have a lot more experience than we do so, when our harvests get a little more generous, we'll consider that.

Truffle season over, we had a lot to think about and a lot of work ahead.  First, let's relax a little until the first signs of spring. 

The trees have no leaves right now.  They are not really resting, however.  They are preparing for new leaves.  At bud break, sometime the first 2 weeks of March, we should be spraying for Eastern Filbert Blight.  That has been the most challenging situation we have faced.  Pruning hasn't stopped the spread.  Only spraying will do that.  It appears that once a tree has EFB, you can't get rid of it.  We've pruned and pruned and pruned.  If you have EFB in your orchard, please consult the research websites on this disease either by visiting our previously published links or Googling Eastern Filbert Blight for most current recommendations for treatment.  We decided to "wait and see" what happens after following the recommendations.  We think our producing orchard is in serious jeopardy and EFB has already appeared in the orchard planted in 2004.  Remember, this is history.  More on the story next time.