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Thursday, June 24, 1999 Published at 10:36 GMT 11:36 UK


Truffle farm first

The truffiere could bring in thousands of pounds per year

Two enterprising businessmen are taking on the gourmets of Europe - with the UK's first commercial truffle farm.

Adrian Cole and Nigel Hadden-Paton hope that their farm, in a quiet corner of Hertfordshire in south-east England, will grow large quantities of the prized Perigord variety of fungus.

The BBC's Lisa Holland: "A gastronomic dream is starting to unfold"
It has always been believed that large-scale commercial cultivation of the fungus, which grows naturally in parts of southern France, Spain and Italy and sells for about £1,500 a kilo, is impossible.

Producers have traditionally relied on trained sows to snuffle out the fungus, which apparently smells like the "male parts" of a male pig.

The truffle is actually a rare variety of mushroom which grows on the roots of infected hazel and oak trees.

[ image: The prized delicacy sells for £1,500 a kilo]
The prized delicacy sells for £1,500 a kilo
But plant scientists from New Zealand have found a way of infecting the trees with the spore of the fungus.

They produced their first commercial crop in 1997, and now 46 trees have been planted in the Hertfordshire experiment.

Mr Hadden-Paton said the pair launched the venture - which they have called Truffles UK - because they loved food, but could not afford to eat the delicacy as often as they would like.

However, the truffiere could bring them in thousands of pounds each year if all goes to plan.

Now, though, two anxious years lie ahead before the truffles can be unearthed.

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