ESCAPE- OLOGY Magazine Issue 1 - Page 11

Searching for, and finding, Tuber Melanosporum (black truffles) requires a combination of well-trained animals and local’s knowledge of the terroir. Its rarity and distinctive earthy aroma make the black truffle the equivalent of culinary gold for many chefs. In France, the black diamond (diamant noir) has been considered a luxury gourmet ingredient since the 18th century, helped by the fact that King Francois 1er insisted that truffles be served in his court, at every meal. Today, the French black truffle harvest leads world production at roughly 45% of which 80% of the truffles come from the Vaucluse.

The Périgord Noir is the same species of truffle named for the region where they are found in the southwest of France. Our guide explained that black truffles have an interdependent relationship with a tree (often oak or hazelnut). The tree’s roots provide carbohydrates to the fungi spores and in exchange gather minerals. One of the clues that a specialist looks for is lack of vegetation around the base of a tree, where the ground appears dry and almost burnt. Truffles thrive in well-drained soil with a high limestone content and a neutral or slightly alkaline PH. However, it is only the critical eye that recognises a truffle fly and follows its flight path. The flies lay their eggs in the soil above the truffles.

The typical period for harvesting black truffles in Europe is from November through early March. The market demand generally peaks around the Christmas and New Year’s holidays.

Although, some food lovers claim that the tastier truffles appear in the first part of the year. Like any other commodity market pricing varies. Good quality truffles can command wholesale prices between 400-1000 €/kilogram, and retail buyers should expect to pay two or three times that number. With the prospect of those returns, it’s easy to understand why truffle hunters guard their supply locations a secret.

The white truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) is almost exclusively found near Alba, Italy. This fungi’s rarity impacts its market value significantly. In 2017, the top sales price for white truffles reached €88 per gram (almost 88,000 €/kilogram). These truffles are heavily aromatic, and their flesh is a light white-grey making them look like lumpy potatoes. Unlike the black varieties, the white truffle spore is yet to be recreated by agronomists - these truffles are created only by nature.

In recent years, it is quite common to see the summer truffle (Tuber Aestivum) in Provencal markets from May through October. Sometimes called the Burgundy truffle this variety is mild and only lightly scented and sells for about half of the price (200-500 €/kilogram) of a black winter truffle.

"It's Black and White"