Home Cooking

The Treasured Truffle

October 26 2012 - 3:00 AM
Fall. The height of culinary pleasures. Nature offers a bounty of seasonal treats – pumpkin, apples and of course truffles. The truffle season begins in October and will peak in November. If you were contemplating a trip to Italy, now is the time to start planning!

Photo: Amazed at the size of this black truffle

Photo: Stunning views of northern Italy’s Piedmont region

Truffles are those heavenly scented tubers plentiful in specific regions of France and Italy (Ok and in parts of China but I’m getting ahead of myself.) The funghi (yes, as in related to mushrooms…not chocolate truffles) have been used throughout the ages as an aphrodisiac, enjoyed as delicacy, and even used for medicinal benefits. As a lover of all things truffle (just a little bit of my favorite truffled salt can go a looong way with the heavenly aroma) I was lucky enough to see some of the harvesting first hand when I traveled to Italy’s truffle and wine mecca in the northern region of Piedmont (pronounced Piemonte in Italian).

Photo: In Piedmont hunters traditionally use dogs instead of pigs to search out the best truffles

Due to the truffle’s highly prized value the demand is steadily increasing its market rate and quality black truffles can sell for $250 – $450 a pound! The more coveted white truffle commands an even higher price with prices reaching an outstanding $3,600 a pound. Insane right? Well, apparently this insanity is fostering a dangerous black market trend. Less expensive (due in part to their inferior harvest) Chinese truffles are often being passed off as the more expensive European truffles. Trained truffle dogs are being stolen, and peoples’ livelihoods are being threatened. I was shocked when I saw s recent story on CBS about the disturbing trends in the truffle industry.

CBS – Truffles: The Most Expensive Food in the World

This delicacy has driven the market to take desperate measures and it’s shocking just how much these inferior truffle products have ruined the established vendors who have made their livelihood selling the tubers for centuries.

–Robyn Traub