Truffle fans have an opportunity to ‘adopt’ a two-year-old tree for €750 and eat what it produces for the next 15 years, thanks to an innovative scheme from a truffle company in south west France.
If all goes well, the truffle oaks, which are grown in a managed, irrigated plot in Dordogne, should start to produce truffles in six years.
While they wait, investors will receive regular baskets of truffle products over five years worth a total of €455, and invitations to tasting events and meet-the-grower days.
Guillaume Gé, one of the founders of the Truffe Aléna company, said: “For most people, it will never be a huge financial investment success, but it will allow them to enjoy some of the mystery surrounding truffles and the delights of having their own to cook with, if they do not want to sell them.”
He said the money from the adoption scheme would help the business expand further, among other benefits.
“We want to change the way truffles are grown and sold to make it more transparent than it is at the moment, where the markets seem closed and strange to outsiders,” he said.
The company has 120 hectares of truffle oaks, and the adoption scheme is for a parcel of 29 hectares at Gout-Rossignol in north-east Dordogne.The trees have all been inoculated with the spore of the black Périgord truffle.
Along with his partner Mathieu Trellu, Mr Gé started in the truffle business by acting as a broker between producers and buyers, especially high quality restaurants, before buying some existing plots and planting new ones.
Guillaume Gé, one of the founders of the Truffe Aléna company. Pic: Guillaume Gé, supplied by interviewee
Dordogne used to be one of the main truffle-growing areas in the world, but production fell off after World War Two as farmers switched to more reliable and lucrative crops.
Known as ‘black gold’, truffles sell for around €1,000 a kilogram, but each oak produces only around 150 grams a year.
The truffles are found using trained sniffer dogs or, occasionally, pigs.
The latter are more difficult to handle and sometimes eat the truffles before they can be stopped.
Truffle adoption is one of a number of farm-linked investments schemes in France.
Best known are those where people invest in dairy cows, which are then effectively rented out to farmers – something which has been codified in the country since the establishment of a legal contrat de gazaille in the 12th century.
Over the years, various companies and associations have offered dairy cow investments, but be careful – some have been highlighted by consumer watchdogs as offering more than they can deliver.
The last serious warning came from the Autorité des marchés financiers, the financial regulator, in 2020.
It said it had put 70 websites offering such investments on its list of 1,000 dangerous sites.