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'Exciting' truffle found near Wymondham

PUBLISHED: 09:28 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 14:41 14 July 2010

A truffle

A truffle

A rare truffle never before found in Norfolk and only last seen in the country in 1911 has been discovered near Wymondham.

The Tuber Macrosporum truffle was found during a routine tidy-up in a garden during the summer.

Microbiologist Dr Anne Edwards.

A rare truffle never before found in Norfolk and only last seen in the country in 1911 has been discovered near Wymondham.

The Tuber Macrosporum truffle was found during a routine tidy-up in a garden during the summer.

So rare the exact details of where it was found and by who cannot be revealed so truffle hunters do not start digging up areas of the county.

Dr Anne Edwards, a microbiologist from the St John Innes Centre and a member of the Wymondham Nature Group (WyNG) was informed of the discovery.

She said: “It has never been found in Norfolk before and not found in Britain since 1911. There were only four sightings prior to 1911.

“A record and samples have been submitted to the National Collection in Kew and last week a mycological expert identified the truffle.”

“Scientifically, it's quite an important find.”

Truffles are underground fungus and one of the reasons for the growth is the large amounts of rain we have had in the county during the last few months.

Dr Edwards added: “As a scientist it's always exciting to find and study a rare species. The relationship between the fungus or truffle and the tree with which it is associated is fascinating.

“Tree and truffle live in symbiosis with both partners benefitting from the relationship. The truffle gets carbohydrates, proteins and other organic nutrients from the roots of the tree while the tree benefits from an increased supply of inorganic nutrients, like phosphorus that come from the truffle.

“It is important to record all these interesting biological records before the species are lost forever. Perhaps with all the extra rain we are getting we should expect to see more truffles in the future in which case truffles could be the new Norfolk cash crop.”

This particular species is not considered a culinary delicacy like some of the others like the Summer Truffle but it can be eaten.

Dr Edwards added: “Some truffles are considered more of a delicacy than others but many can be eaten. Some would not taste that nice that is all.

“It is very similar to the Summer Truffle but has larger spores and was identified by members of the Norfolk Fungus Study Group who measured the spores under a microscope.

“Fortunately, for the truffle at least, Tuber macrosporum is considered to be second-rate in Italy where the Perigord Truffle is the most highly prized culinary species.”

Truffles are considered rare finds and members of WyNG are fearful of follow up truffle hunters wrecking areas of rural Wymondham to find the species.

Many think their smell is like deep-fried sunflower seeds or walnuts while others think it is revolting.

They have also been called the “the diamond of the kitchen” and praised for their aphrodisiac powers.

Dr Edwards added: “The ancient Greeks thought truffles were made when lightning hit damp soil.

“There are actually over 60 British species but only a few are edible and these are rarely found.”

TRUFFLE FACTFILE

A truffle is defined as any fungus which grows underground.

The ancient Greeks thought truffles were made when lightning hit damp soil.

There are more than 60 British species but only a few are edible and these are rarely found.

The most sought-after truffle in Britain, for culinary purposes, is the Summer Truffle or Tuber Aestivum.

One of the reasons for the truffle growing is being linked to the heavy amounts of rain that has fallen in the last few months.

For more than two thousand years, truffles have been one of the rarest and most prized delicacies in the world. Italy is the world's biggest provider and a well-kept secret is that the little known Molise region is one of the main centres.

Truffles are essentially mushrooms that grow underground in association with certain types of trees - mainly oak, beech and hazelnut. Their growth beneath the earth's surface is thought to be an adaptation to forest fires, drought, or severe cold, which leaves mushrooms above the soil surface prone to destruction.

The truffle has developed its very powerful aroma in order to propagate - it is very attractive to animals such as pigs and squirrels which dig them up for food and truffle hunting using pigs is part of tradition in Italy.

There are a variety of truffles but the best known thrive in northern and central Italy. These truffles are plentiful during the summer, which brings down the prices compared to the winter varieties, and range from £150 a kilo.

Truffle products are delicious used with pasta, risotto, polenta, bruschetta, wild asparagus, savoury tarts and with a a wide range of other dishes. They are also excellent used as a 'ripieni' (stuffing).

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