Alameda family’s new truffle farm said to be California’s largest

Gathering around the dinner table with friends and family at their Alameda home is what grounds Fabrice and Claudia Caporal and their two children, and they’ve put down roots in the island city’s community.

Their thoughts, however, are increasingly focused on an orchard 2½ hours away in Lake County, about 65 miles northeast of Santa Rosa, where they have established roots of another kind. More precisely, they are cultivating a wonderfully aromatic edible fungi that grows in tandem with the roots of certain trees: truffles. Not just any truffles, either. The Caporals’ English oak tree roots are seeded with tuber melanosporum, the famous French black Périgord truffles.

The culinary delicacies, known as black diamonds or black gold, look like irregular potatoes after being unearthed and can fetch more than $1,000 per pound. The earthy aroma of a truffle, often shaved sparingly over food, enhances a dish and makes them a sought-after ingredient by chefs — especially those in well-known restaurants around the wine country and Bay Area. For the Caporals, truffles are the perfect metaphor for “l’art de la table,” combining the family’s love of fine dining and connecting with others.

“Community and food, being around the table with friends and family — these are the things that are important to us,” said Claudia Caporal, sitting at a long kitchen table in their Alameda home near Crown Beach.

The Caporals’ orchard enterprise is called Clos Racines, inspired by Fabrice Caporal’s native France, where his family had a small orchard. Along a narrow road in the hills of Lake County, Clos Racines was planted over the last two years, with the most recent seedlings going into the ground in April for a total of 3,600 trees. At 26 acres, it’s the largest site devoted to truffle farming in California thus far, says Charles Lefevre, an Oregon mycologist who supplies trees inoculated with the fungus.

Although truffles embody the best of fine dining, cultivating them is not simply a matter of planting young trees and patiently sipping a good pinot noir while waiting for the underground fungi to be sniffed out by trusty truffle dogs. The Caporals are already finding that to see results it takes diligence, endurance, problem-solving and time — a lot of time, possibly up to a decade.

“If we’re lucky, we will have our first truffles in five to seven years,” Fabrice said.

In the meantime, they will need to fend off voracious gophers and

Source:: The Mercury News – Lifestyle

      

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