Italy and France may have brought fame and fortune to the truffle -- a rare mushroom and culinary delicacy -- but this precious fungus can actually be found all over the world if you know where to look.
grow just beneath the ground on farms in Tasmania, in the deserts of the Middle East, on orchards in Oregon, in the forests of Slovenia
and plenty of places
are five countries that cover the spectrum of truffles with respect to variety,
flavour and price.
Both in Italy and in France, truffle hunters train dogs like the Lagotto Romagnolo to sniff out the elusive
underground truffles. While the job is sometimes done
the pigs often eat the mushrooms once they find them.
The rare European white truffle is the world’s most expensive mushroom, with a
price tag that can exceed 2,200 euros per pound. Found in Italy’s Piedmont, Marche and Tuscany regions, growing among the
roots of poplar, beech, hazelnut, oak and willow trees, white truffles are very
aromatic, with a strong
flavour that has been described as earthy, musky or
garlicky. Light brown or
in colour and smooth in texture, they are usually shaved raw over a dish.
The second most highly coveted truffle is the black diamond truffle, found in
the Umbria and Piedmont regions. These are more bountiful and therefore more
affordable, though they sell for upwards of 750 euros per pound. Less aromatic
than white truffles, black diamonds have a rougher, nut-like
and are usually found in cooked dishes. Less expensive still is the summer
truffle, a milder tasting black truffle that grows throughout Europe (even in England) during the warmer
months. Summer truffles are about half the cost of black diamonds.
For a fantastic introduction to the
world of truffles, Italy is packed with truffle fairs and festivals in October
and November. Long-term festivals and markets take place in
Alba in the Piedmont region, in Acqualagna in Marche and in San Miniato in
France is best known for its black diamond truffles, locally called Périgord
truffles after the region in where they are found. Périgord, Provence and
Burgundy are the most popular regions for truffle hunting in France. The
country’s output of truffles is decreasing, though, as a result of climate change,
said a CBS
News report, which found that harvest numbers have reduced over the past
This scarcity has driven up the fungi’s value even more, resulting in a truffle
industry vulnerable to black market
influence and fraud.
The Cote de Nuits Truffles and
Wine Tour of the Burgundy countryside is a delicious way to connect
with nature on a hike that starts with tasty truffles and ends in a winery.
Since this is Burgundy, the day would not be complete without a four-course
lunch, wine pairings included.
Chinese truffles look a lot like their French cousins, but they cost far
less -- as little as
130 yuan per pound or as much as 1,300 yuan per pound. This
led truffle sellers in France (and other countries) to peddle Chinese truffles as
their own, raking in as much as 40 times more
than they’re worth. Chinese truffles tend to be milder and less fragrant than
Europe’s black truffles, which make them a more versatile -- and at their low
price, more practical -- ingredient for cooks and chefs.
The Yunnan Province is the heart of
truffle country in southern China. Tourists can join locals who collect all
varieties of fungus on a mushroom hunting trip via Mushroom Roaming Tours,
or by setting up a guided tour through your hotel. Or visit the Nanhua County mushroom
market, in northwest Yunnan’s Chuxiong Yi Autonomous Prefecture, where local hunters sell their acquisitions.
The vast, golden expanse of the Kalahari Desert keeps its treasures well
hidden, but under the sandy plains, truffle mushrooms flourish. Kalahari
truffles are the cheapest of the bunch (at least 100 times cheaper than their
European relatives), and in Namibia, truffle hunters don’t require the aid of
dogs or hogs -- only their well-trained eyes. They take the cue of
cracks in the sand
to reach into the ground, either with their hands or with a stick. What they
unearth is a fragrant,
gift -- light brown, with a relatively smooth exterior. Less flavourful than
Europe’s varieties, Kalahari truffles only cost about 30 or 40
Namibian dollars per pound, but they are still highly sought
after delicacies by locals and visitors.
Fresh local ingredients like truffles
can be tasted at Restaurant Gathemann in Windhoek.
In addition to local fungi, be sure to give Namibia’s freshly hunted game meat
and fish a try.
Both black and white truffles grow in Croatia, but unlike in other
countries, the black varieties are harvested year-round. The white varieties are
harvested in the autumn and winter, which is when the
largest white truffle in the world was found on Croatia’s Istrian peninsula. In November 1999, truffle
exporter Giancarlo Zigante and his dog discovered a white truffle weighing in
at nearly three pounds within Istria’s thick forests of Motovun.
You can find a truffle trip almost any
time of the year in Croatia. For a unique experience, go on a night
truffle hunt, offered by Istriana Travel from April through
December. Alternatively, you can experience Istria with a bike
tour of Truffle’s Trail, which includes a visit to
local therapeutic hot springs.
Travelwise is a BBC Travel column that goes behind the
travel stories to answer common questions, satisfy uncommon curiosities and
uncover some of the mystery surrounding travel. If you have a burning travel
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