Jaime Montaner: Secrets of a Laumont Truffle Farmer

Jaime Montaner: Secrets of a Laumont Truffle Farmer

Jaime Montaner is a unique truffle farmer. Truffles have always been his great passion, and ever since he was a young boy, he enjoyed going up into the mountains to forage for truffles. Today, he is the owner of his own truffle farm. Built on his extensive experience and the strength of his convictions, Jaime has a network of plantations that closely resembles wild foraging in the mountains. Are you ready to hear all about the secrets of a successful truffle farmer?

What was it like when you first started in the world of truffle farming?

Years ago, it seemed like you just had to plant a few trees and you were sorted. But now, you can see that the climate is changing, and you have to do other things aside from just caring for the trees or the land... In particular, you have to find water.

What were your first experiences like?

I created my first truffle plantation 24 years ago. The field gave me my first truffles after 11 years. Then, with time, other plantations started to produce truffles after 4 years. That’s because, at first, I was less experienced and I didn’t work the land as well as I should have.

What do you most like about the world of truffles?

What I most enjoy is being a truffle hunter, going up into the mountains. That’s what I was really passionate about. Going out and meeting other foragers, walking through the mountains, going out with the dog... Sometimes, he’d bring you a truffle in his mouth and then, later, he’d bring you to the tree itself.

Secrets of a Laumont Truffle Farmer

Is it hard work starting a truffle plantation?

It takes a lot of hard work, yes. Once you’ve bought the field, you have to assess what condition it’s in. If it’s a fallow field, you have to cut down the bush, plough up the subsoil, and then, you can sow cereals or legumes for a couple of years. If it’s already been used for cereals, it will have a good subsoil so that the sun and the frost can really penetrate.

Then, you can plant your trees and manage it using your best judgement. For example, I don’t particularly like hard labour. But you have to be constantly looking after your trees. The oaks shouldn’t have any grass for the first 5 years.

What advice would you give to someone who is just getting started in truffle farming?

Wait until it starts producing... and stay calm.

How did you learn the secrets of being a successful truffle farmer?

Well, I try to look at the best, which are in Sarrión, Teruel. And you should always look closely at what your land is like. It’s very important to work the earth when you remove truffles, to work the hole that you make.

It’s very simple. Everything they do these days with regard to throwing on substrate and spores, that’s been done for ages. Since there used to be so many truffles, when people went foraging, truffles got broken and dogs used to scrape them. And so the spores got left in the ground and the earth got turned by itself.

Laumont Truffle Hunter

How many years can a tree produce black truffles?

I’ve seen many trees in the mountains that are very old but still produce a lot of truffles. Why do trees on a farm stop producing after 25 years? I have no idea...

What is the greatest risk of being a truffle farmer?

The biggest risk on a truffle plantation is not producing any truffles and then, all your investment has gone to waste. Here, you plant a tree and wait for 8 years. You have to put up fences, look for water, make wells... It’s a very big investment and you don’t really know if you’re going to produce any truffles.

What do you like most (and least) about being a truffle farmer?

What I like most about being a truffle farmer is that you simply plant some small trees and wait for them to respond... and then they give you truffles. It’s very satisfying.

What I don’t like about truffle farming is when people use additives and try to grow second or third-rate truffles. I don’t like that because it’s cheating the consumer.

You need to leave the tree alone. It will produce truffles and they’ll take all the minerals and nutrients they need from the land to produce that top-quality aroma.

How did you start working with Laumont?

I have always sold my truffles to the same person, Vicente. A few years ago, he started working with Laumont and so I did too. Wherever Vicente goes, I go. I’ve spent 26 years in the truffle business and I’ve always worked with Vicente.

What do you get from Vicente, the Laumont truffle agent?

In the world of truffles, what Vicente gives you is trust. He loves you and cares about you. Everything that gets lost these days with regard to human values, Vicente gives you that.

How should you deal with Leiodes?

Leiodes is a problem because they don’t check the truffles properly. Some people invest in traps, but you’re not going to get rid of Leiodes with traps. You get rid of Leiodes by checking every day. Once you get to the point where you don’t find any more truffles, Leiodes won’t appear anymore because it only looks for mature truffles.

Jaime Montaner