It’s the most expensive food in the world. And the truffles we are referring to aren’t the kind you buy at Godiva. This kind of truffle is a fungus.
“It’s incredible when you think about it because if you think that you are going to get retail $1500 a pound for something you are growing agriculturally, that’s the most expensive product in the world,” said Susan Rice Alexander, owner of Susan Rice Truffles in Vass, North Carolina.
It grows on the roots of trees, most commonly in Europe where soil and weather conditions are ideal. While many chefs buy most of their truffles from Provence in France and Tuscany in Italy, there is a small but growing truffle movement in the U.S.
“Some people laughed at me. They said ‘You can’t grow truffles in the United States,’” said Alexander.
But that didn’t stop her from wanting to bring this European delicacy to her backyard. After purchasing a 90-acre farm from an elderly woman eight years ago, Alexander knew she wanted to do something unique with the land. Over the course of a few years, she gradually expanded the farm to 200-acres and decided she wanted to grow truffles.
“I had no business in agriculture or farming. The truffle kind of drew me in as to how it grows, all the different secrets of the truffle that no one has been able to figure out,” said Alexander.
But growing truffles takes more than planting a few seeds in the ground
“I wanted everyone to here to have a taste of how the truffle tastes and put an American twist on this beautiful food."
“I studied. I went to Europe. I associated with some of the best experts in the world and I learned as much as I could,” she said.
Her efforts paid off. Now, Alexander has the second largest truffle farm in the world.
“I wanted everyone to here to have a taste of how the truffle tastes and put an American twist on this beautiful food,” said Alexander.
Since they grow under ground, the truffles are harvested by trained pigs or dogs who pick up on the scent of the truffles on the roots of the trees.
“On a typical day, you take your dogs or your pigs out, you set them free and they naturally go to the truffle,” said Alexander.
The truffles are then shipped overnight to chefs and restaurants on a waiting list to make sure the truffles stay fresh. After all, a handful of truffles is worth over $1000.
“When you get it from France, it has to go through customs so you are looking at 10 days of the beautiful truffle losing it’s moisture,” said Alexander.
The demand for truffles is increasing in the United States as American become more familiar with it. Alexander plans to keep growing her farm to meet those demands. She is hoping to be harvesting 100 lobs an acre in the next few years. The truffles sell for $1500 a pound, which means Alexander could make $30 million dollars off her 200-acre property from selling truffles.
“It’s so rare and anytime we find anything that’s rare, we typically want it.”