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A Pioneer of South Africa’s Budding Truffle Cultivation Industry

Only shrubs grew naturally in the sandy acid soil that farmer Volker Miros, 81, chose as a site to test the potential for truffle production in South Africa. The determined mycophile saw no reason why the highly prized fungi could not grow on the plateaus of South Africa’s rugged Cederberg mountains in the west of the country, where the climate is similar to that of Mediterranean Europe. In 2009, he imported spores of the French Perigord variety — touted as the “black diamond” of the culinary world — and used them to inoculate the roots of oak seedlings that were then planted in the area. After six years of trial and error, and tonnes of calcitic lime to counter the soil’s acidity, the first truffles were finally unearthed. Today the family is South Africa’s number one Perigord grower and supplier, with almost 100 hectares (250 acres) of truffle orchards planted not only in the Cederberg region but also in other pockets of the country with similar climates. The most prolific of the orchards yields close to 10 kilogrammes of truffles per hectare each season, which spans South Africa’s coldest months from June to August. The highest quality Miros truffle sells for around $1,370 per kilo this year, almost at par with the European market rates. Most buyers are local high-end restaurants that have only recently started to incorporate the delicacy into their dishes.SOURCE: AFRICA NEWS