Some Idaho farmers are experimenting with a new, potentially lucrative crop: truffles.
There's no clear procedure for growing truffles, which can sell for between $500 and $1,200 a pound, reported The Capital Press. The fungi grow underground in orchards planted with trees that have been inoculated with truffle spores.
The commercial truffle orchard is a new industry, so Idaho farmers like Paul Beckman are planting a variety of trees with different spacing and organization to figure out what works.
"There is no farming manual on truffles. That real good understanding of the farming aspect of truffles just isn't there yet," explained Beckman.
Beckman began trying to grow the delicacy, which he calls "Idaho's other tuber," nine years ago. He has planted 35 acres of truffle-inoculated trees north of Eagle, and other farmers followed his lead. There are now about 120 acres of truffle trees in southwestern Idaho's Treasure Valley.
The trees take about seven to 12 years before they begin producing significant amounts of the fungus, which grows near the root systems of several types of trees. The truffles stay underground, so they are located using trained truffle-sniffing dogs.
So far, Beckman is the only Idaho truffle farmer to find any of the fungus. Four seasons ago, he found five and so far this year, he has found 300.
He's optimistic about the future of truffle orchards in Idaho and believes they will one day produce significant amounts of truffles.
"It's just a matter of waiting for them to mature," he said.
Information from: The Capital Press (Ore.), http://www.capitalpress.com/washington