Page last updated at 16:45 GMT, Wednesday, 6 August 2008 17:45 UK

Truffles surprise for gardener

Truffle
The truffles were found near mature beech trees

A culinary delight, normally associated with France or Italy, has been discovered in a Devon garden.

Ten truffles - the fungal equivalent of caviar - were unearthed by tree surgeon and gardener Chris Hunt in a garden in Plymouth.

The sought-after delicacies are thought to be worth about 1,000.

The 47-year-old gardener dug up the truffles when working in the garden of Elaine Keith-Hill, who is now considering selling them.

"I was amazed when Chris found them," she told BBC News.

"I thought 'what am I doing with truffles in my garden' and gradually throughout the day he kept finding more and more."

Truffles surprise for gardener

Mr Hunt was clearing undergrowth around beech trees at Mrs Keith-Hill's property when he unearthed around two kilos of the aromatic fungus.

He said when he uncovered the first truffle, he recognised it immediately.

"But I've never found anything like this in 10 years of digging up people's gardens," Mr Hunt said.

The garden where the truffles were found is filled with mature oak and beech trees about 150 years old.

Truffles are traditionally gathered between November and May, using specially-trained dogs or boars who locate the fungi by smell.

They grow around tree roots - normally oak - by providing and taking vital nutrients from the roots.

Strong flavour

The black truffle from Perigord in France and the white truffle from Piedmont in Italy are considered by many to be the best in the world.

They are both mainly harvested in late autumn and winter. Once discovered, truffles can often be collected in subsequent years at the same location.

Truffles and truffle oil have strong flavours and aromas.

For that reason chefs use bland foods, such as pasta, rice and potatoes to complement the truffle flavour.

They are also often used in conjunction with fatty foods like foie gras, butter, cheese, cream, and oils.


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