Well how about planting lots of trees .............
and then enjoying one of the rarest, most expensive foods in the world ?
We’re talking ‘Truffles’ here !
( And I don’t mean the chocolate ones - though I’m lucky to get even those from that Joe !)
Well, O.K. it’s not quite that easy, but it is a lot easier than you may think.
We have Hazel (Corylus avellena – I just love showing off) and the English Oak (Quercus robur) both of which have been carefully innoculated to ensure the growth of Summer truffles (Tuber aestivum var. uncinatum.)
We also have Winter Truffle (Tuber melanosporum) on an Evergreen Oak (Quercus ilex) for our customers in Southern England who should enjoy a slightly warmer climate !
The Hazel is such a lovely versatile tree.
It gives us nuts in September ( anybody know why they are called ‘Filberts’ ), and brightens the dullest February days with it’s catkins , while it’s leaves are one of the first signs of spring and are usually the last to fall in the Autumn.
But it’s not just a pretty face !
It’s planted as hedging, or for windbreaks, and the coppiced wood has been used for centuries for so many, many things.
Weaved into baskets, made into hurdles, used for ‘wattle and daub’ houses ( not to mention holding down thatch) carved into walking sticks and shepherd’s crooks and a
Druid simply would not be seen without his hickory staff !
Forked twigs of Hazel are ideal for water divining too, I’m told ( although I think the twigs would mainly point to the sky in the U.K. ! )
Another good thing about the native Hazel – it’s just not that fussy where you put it.
Clay or loamy, exposed or comfy cosy, mildly acidic, alkaline or nuetral soil the tough old Hazel will just shrug its shoulders ( although I don’t really think trees have shoulders, silly) and get on with growing.
The only thing the Hazel does like is an alkaline (limey) soil, it will help you to produce truffles as quickly as possible.
Unless you coppice them, they will probably grow to about 30’, with about a 9’ spread.
The truffle trees are supplied as small ‘whips’, about 18” – 20” high complete with a certificate to say that your trees have been ‘innoculated’ with summer truffle fungus.
I planted mine with wormcast and coir compost mixed with a handful of seaweed granules .
To harvest your truffles, you may need to wait 4- 5 years, although the “brule” ( this is a bare looking area around the base of the tree which shows that truffles are on their way) can be seen in less than a year.
Aren’t all good things really worth waiting for !!
Incidentally this will give you time to train your dog to go truffle hunting – I can’t teach it but I know just the woman who can, ask me on firstname.lastname@example.org
The English Oak, it just brings life to so much of the past, and this lovely tree, with it’s leaves just turning in early Autumn, has seen more time passing than I ever will.
Who can’t remember stories of Francis Drake’s Golden Hind then, after that little trip, he and John Hawkins with their ‘little’ ships taking on the might of the Armada ?
Or tales of Charles hiding in a huge, enveloping tree, and the cannon balls that bounced off the sturdy timbers of Nelsons fleet ?
The whole of British history would be different without this wonderful tree, some of which have seen over a thousand years of these islands history.
No wonder the Royal Navy’s anthem is ‘Hearts of Oak ‘ !
By planting one of these majestic trees, you could be enriching the landscape for centuries to come.
Of course by ‘enriching’ I don’t just mean your grandchildrens, grandchildren will enjoy a beautiful everchanging Oak, although they will.
I mean countless generations of wildlife will have a home, food and shelter through the Oak’s acorns, leaves, flowers, branches, and bark.
Acorns will only be really abundant when your Oak starts maturing, but you should have had lots of Truffles by then !
The flowers appear in early May, before the leaves are fully formed. A wonderful sign that summers on it’s way !
There are probably over four hundred insects living in an English Oak tree.
Gall wasps, butterflies ( including the so rare ‘Purple Emperor‘), moths, beetles, caterpillars, aphids and ladybirds to chase them – I simply can’t list them all.
Then think of all those birds that come to visit this giant ‘larder’.
Woodpeckers, blue tits, blackbirds, thrushes, jays – look long enough and you will see so many British birds getting tucked in !
As you may have gathered, I love the English Oak.
It may be slow growing, I will never see any I tree plant reach majestic maturity, but just feel
I’m contributing to the land that I love so much, putting down future history.
Oh, I’m coming over all silly again, back to work !
The Oak is a BIG tree, growing eventually to well over a 100 feet or more with a 40 foot ‘spread’ so don’t plant it too close to the house ( or your neighbours !)
You can pollard it though, best time is late winter, and it’s pollarded trees that will live longest.
However, when the truffle tree is still growing for posterity, you can be harvesting the summer truffles.
You could be eating like a russian oligarch after 4 – 5 years.
( It’s the only way I will ever afford to eat a truffle – I’m still working on how to grow a yacht !)
As with all our trees, the truffle trees will be sent ‘bare root’ ready for planting with full instructions, along with a certificate saying they have been ‘truffle-ised’.
It’s not that fussy, clay or loam and grows in exposed places, and it does need quite a lot of water so wet ground, although not permanently boggy, can be suitable.
Well O.K., perhaps I can see that the huge English Oak while so lovely, and so good for wild life , may not be everybody’s cup of tea.
Our other Oak is a bit of an exotic, with bit of latin temperament, and is much more bashful about shedding it’s leaves – in fact it’s an evergreen.
The Holm Oak, the Holly Oak, the Evergreen Oak take your pick really – they’re all ‘ Quercus ilex’
It’s a beautiful tree, growing to about 60 - 70’ if left to get on with it.
However, it can be trained and shaped into a size best suited for your garden.
In fact it can be planted as, and trimmed into, a hedge which can form a lovely wind break.
( Unusually, it’s ideal protection from sea breezes it does not mind salty winds a bit.)
It does shed it’s leaves ( which when the tree is young are a bit prickly like holly) but only every two years, normally around May.
The new leaves are often a silvery grey and they may even be a few days around this time when the whole tree looks a rich golden brown because of the catkins, which will eventually develop into acorns.
These catkins will turn into acorns, and you can see the leaves darkening as they get older.
Although you will not have to wait as long for acorns as you would for the English Oak, the Holm Oak has to grow up a bit before it starts producing it’s young. (Well don’t we all – hopefully ! )
These are the catkins, and you can see the colour of the new leaves.
This photo was taken towards the end of May.
It may not harbour as much wild life as our native oak – few trees do – it still is a great boon to many creatures, and the acorns are considered edible. We’ve never tried them , but you can buy them to be toasted, or to be made into flour, in many Meditteranean markets.
(In Spain there is a special ham "Jamon Serrano" made from pigs fed on these acorns – it’s hugely expensive, but you may be able to afford it when you get some free truffles !)
Here is a truffle shown against a background of a Holm Oak (top) and English Oak leaves.
It is a little bit fussier than our indigenous Oaks, likeing well drained positions.
However, it does do well in any location which does not become waterlogged, although with a preference, as with our other trees, for an alkaline soil, around a ph of 7-8 is ideal.
If your soil tends towards the acid, then throw in some lime into the hole or then again filling it with our wormcast and coir compost will create an ideal environment.
All of these trees, so full of ‘truffle potential’, would make such lovely presents: truly unique gifts that really will last a lifetime !
We have bought one for my Mum’s new home, but can you think of a better Christening gift, or Christmas, or Easter, or Wedding, or Birthday – or just to say ‘Thank You’ !
There are so many reasons for planting trees: the environment, the benefit to wildlife, bio generation and diversity you can go on and on ( alright – I know I am ! ) but to me there is nothing more beautiful, more restful, more natural than just taking the time to look at a tree, and seeing all the life that depends on it.
Natures natural cycle is so clearly seen in the world of a tree, and how much do we depend on that world !
Our truffle trees will arrive in ‘bare root’ form, ready for you to plant without shocking the roots by ‘de-potting’ – although you could pot on into one of our larger biodegradable coir pots until you have finally decided where to plant your trees.
You can mix and match whatever trees you like, and we will normally get them to you within 6-7 days.
Just tell me what you would like when you order.
Incidentally if you would like even more truffle trees, even up to an entire estate, please just ask us.