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Black Gold: No longer exclusive to Europe, black truffles find a welcoming environment in the Southeast, where at least one Floridian has developed a taste for cultivating the gourmet fungus.

   Eight hundred dollars a pound for a truffle truffle (trŭf`əl) [Fr.], subterranean edible fungus that forms a mutually beneficial (symbiotic) relationship with the roots of certain trees and plants. The part of the fungus used as food is the ascoma, the fruiting body of the fungus.  might sound absurd if you’re thinking chocolates, but switch gears to the fungal variety and the price tag starts to make more sense. After all, the black truffle isn’t just any old mushroom – in fact, it’s not a mushroom at all.
   A rare type of fungus that grows entirely underground in a symbiotic relationship symbiotic relationship (sim´bīot´ik),
n in implantology, that relationship assumed by an implant and the natural teeth to which it has been splinted.
 with oak and hazelnut trees, Tuber tuber, enlarged tip of a rhizome (underground stem) that stores food. Although much modified in structure, the tuber contains all the usual stem parts—bark, wood, pith, nodes, and internodes.  melanosporum is usually only found in parts of France and Italy, where a drop in production and a growth in demand has kept prices high. Specific soil, climate and precipitation requirements previously made cultivating black truffles exclusive to Europe, but after finding these conditions were also present in North Carolina North Carolina, state in the SE United States. It is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean (E), South Carolina and Georgia (S), Tennessee (W), and Virginia (N). Facts and Figures

Area, 52,586 sq mi (136,198 sq km). Pop.
, a Florida businessman’s new company is hoping to transform 200 acres of farmland into the country’s largest truffle orchard and introduce more Americans to this delicate treat.
   “America is uncharted waters Uncharted Waters (Japanese: 大航海時代, Daikoukai Jidai, literally Great Navigation Era) is a popular Japanese video game series produced by Koei as part of its rekoeition games.  for truffles,” says Charles Warren
For the American diplomat, see Charles B. Warren.
For the American golfer, see Charles Warren (golfer).

General Sir Charles Warren
, executive vice president and chief marketing director of Black Diamond French Truffles Inc. Known as the Perigord truffle because it grows in the Southern Perigord region of France, the black truffle can take five, 10 or even 20 years to grow once the oak and hazelnut trees have been planted with soil taken from truffle-growing areas. The soil conditions have to be just right, but Warren says that what’s most important is that the truffles are cultivated in an area where winter temperatures don’t fall below 15 degrees for three days in a row. “That can wipe out the entire crop for the year,” he says. “The thing with North Carolina is that the conditions are very, very similar to the southwest part of France.”
   In France, urban development and climate change has caused a dramatic drop in truffle production, with this year’s harvest topping at only half of what was expected. While there are already a few truffle orchards in North Carolina, they range from two to five acres in size and have been unable to keep up with demand, mostly supplying truffles to chefs at local and national restaurants. 
   Warren, who lives in Parkland, Fla., but was born and raised in London, tried his first truffle shaved over pasta when he was only 4 years old. “Once you’ve tasted a truffle, it has such a unique taste and aroma that, if you can afford it, you’re going to taste it again,” he says. Warren was working as a professional investment analyst when, on a visit to a restaurant in New Orleans New Orleans (ôr`lēənz –lənz, ôrlēnz`), city (2006 pop. 187,525), coextensive with Orleans parish, SE La., between the Mississippi River and Lake Pontchartrain, 107 mi (172 km) by water from the river mouth; founded , he noticed that truffles were on the menu. He asked the waiter where they came from and  learned that they’d been cultivated in North Carolina. He and company co-founder Susan Rice saw an opportunity. At 200 acres, Black Diamond will be the largest truffle orchard in the United States United States, officially United States of America, republic (2005 est. pop. 295,734,000), 3,539,227 sq mi (9,166,598 sq km), North America. The United States is the world's third largest country in population and the fourth largest country in area. . It plans to supply restaurants, retailers, hotels and online customers around the world.
   Early this year, they planted their first 5,500 oak trees on half the farmland and plan to have the remaining 100 acres completely planted by fall 2009. Since they’re expecting the first crop to take five years to grow, in the meantime Adv. 1. in the meantime - during the intervening time; "meanwhile I will not think about the problem"; "meantime he was attentive to his other interests"; "in the meantime the police were notified"
meantime, meanwhile
 Black Diamond will be selling other truffle products like truffle oil Truffle oil is a modern culinary ingredient added to foods, which is intended to impart the flavor and aroma of truffles to a dish. Most truffle oils are not, in fact, made from actual truffles, but are instead a synthetic product that combines aromatic hydrocarbons , truffle butter and truffle pasta.
   Even so, once the truffles grow in the Black Diamond farmland, located in a small town called Vass in central North Carolina, they’ll still be a hard-to-find delicacy. That’s because, being entirely underground, they’re literally hard to find. Truffle hunting is carried out by pigs or dogs that are especially trained to sniff their scent from the ground, though dogs tend to be the preferred method because pigs, like humans, find the truffles quite appetizing and have been known to eat the goods.
   If $800 a pound still sounds a bit steep, the good news is that you’ll rarely need a whole pound of black truffles to enjoy their taste. Typically they’re served grated over dishes such as pastas and risotto ri·sot·to  
n. pl. ri·sot·tos
A dish of rice cooked in broth, usually with saffron, and served with grated cheese.

[Italian, from riso, rice, from Old Italian; see rice.
. At La Cofradia, a high-end Miami restaurant, for example, Chef Jean Paul Jean Paul: see Richter, Johann Paul Friedrich.  Desmaison shaves truffles over a fresh porcini risotto, though he notes the dish isn’t always on the menu. “Maybe for the weekend we’ll do a special,” he says, “and only when they’re in season,” which is from Dec. 1 to March 15. “Truffles are not like any other food. The flavors are very complex. They’re rich and strong, but not too strong, with a bit of an earthy flavor.” Aside from the risotto dish, Desmaison also will offer to shave a little bit of truffle over customers’ pasta dishes or soups. The cost is an additional $25 to $30, depending on the current price per pound.
   In North Carolina, the price, more than the taste, has created quite an interest. The state is the nation’s largest producer of tobacco, a crop that yields about $4,000 per acre. Warren estimates that in its first year, Black Diamond will yield $30,000 to $40,000 per acre. Multiply that by 200 acres and there’s the potential for the transformation of a farming economy that’s traditionally relied on tobacco. Armed with these kinds of numbers and a $25 million investment, Warren and Rice have been able to attract an advisory team that includes George Little George Little may refer to:
  • George Little (North Carolina) (born 1942), Republican politician from North Carolina
  • George Little (naval officer) (1754–1809), American naval officer during the Revolutionary War
, the 2004 North Carolina gubernatorial candidate; attorney Mark Mirkin; and Florida Sen. Jeremy Ring Jeremy Ring is a Democratic member of the Florida Senate, representing the 32nd District since 2007. External links
  • Florida State Legislature - Senator Jeremy Ring official government website
  • Project Vote Smart - Senator Jeremy Ring (FL) profile
   “I think the opportunity is there for this to be the start of a tremendous marketplace in this country,” Ring says. “It goes very well with high-end products, and it’s probably not far off from where Napa Valley Napa Valley, Calif.: see under Napa.

Napa Valley

greatest wine-producing region of the United States. [Am. Hist.: NCE, 2990]

See : Wine
 and other parts of this country that produce wine were years ago.”
   Until then, what’s a truffle lover to do? Gourmet food markets will sometimes stock white and black truffles when they’re in season. During the off-season, you might find white truffles in a jar or you may find a can of cream of black truffles, like I did recently when I went on a hunt for the gourmet tuber.
   Warren hopes to increase the accessibility and awareness of black truffles by making their products available through their website. “Like anyone else can go online and buy a bottle of olive oil olive oil, pale yellow to greenish oil obtained from the pulp of olives by separating the liquids from solids. Olive oil was used in the ancient world for lighting, in the preparation of food, and as an anointing oil for both ritual and cosmetic purposes.  or a case of wine from a winery in California, people will be able to go online and buy a pound of truffles, or half a pound, or truffle oil or butter,” he says. “Five years from now people are going to know more about truffles than what they know today.”
   I, for one, sure hope so, because when I asked about black truffles at my local market, I was told that they only had caramel.
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Author:Natalia Maldonado
Publication:Coral Living
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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