Truffle hunters set to sniff out bumper crop

Gourmets in Italy and beyond are licking their lips in anticipation of a bumper crop this year of the most prized culinary delicacy of all, the white truffle.

The combination of mild weather and a bleak financial climate means the coming months will see lots of high-quality fungus at a – relatively – low price, say experts.

"We're just at the start of the season, and truffle is a strange product, but so far the climatic conditions have been textbook," said Giacomo Oddero, president of the National Centre for Truffle Studies in Alba, the centre of the truffle trade. "The first indications are excellent and suggest that we'll remember this year for a long time to come."

In particular, the relatively cool August, followed by Indian summer weather in September, have helped the white truffle or Magnatum pico to grow readily underground in the forests of the Piemonte region, the heart of white truffle territory, where the season runs from 15 September to 31 January.

The large crop and the economic downturn already appear to be depressing prices of the "white gold" of the forest. Mr Oddero told La Stampa newspaper that the price was currently languishing at "just" €200 (£170) per 100g, compared with the usual price of €400 per 100g. All of which is good news for truffle fanciers.

In previous years, most noticeably inclement, pre-recession 2007, the black year for the white truffle, prices rocketed to €750 per 100g, as overseas millionaires snaffled what little truffle there was, ostentatiously racking up four-figure bills in glitzy restaurants.

The record price paid for a white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid $330,000 (£210,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5kg. He followed it up the next year buying one for $200,000 (£128,000) that was slightly over one kilogramme and dug up in Molise, a region in Italy's south.

As organisers prepare for next month's 80th international white truffle trade fair in Alba, few people expect the return of such stratospheric prices. But business is still expected to be brisk, said Mr Oddero.

The truffles, which look like small, shrunken potatoes when they're dug out of the clayish, calcium-rich soil around oak, willow or poplar trees, are creamy-coloured inside. Attempts to grow them commercially have failed.

Despite its aromatic, highly pungent taste, the white truffle is also very delicate; this and its high cost ensures that it is used sparingly and served raw – usually shaved over steaming buttered pasta or salads. And in Britain, Gordon Ramsay has served white truffle and mushroom pizzas at one of his restaurants.

The fungi, which it used to be thought grew where lightning struck, are harvested by experienced gatherers known in Piemonte as trifolau.

For obvious reasons they keep quiet about the locations of their favourite truffle groves. Serious disputes over the ownership of lucrative patches of truffle territory are not uncommon, and stories of rivals poisoning each other's truffle-hunting dogs abound.

There are dozens of truffle species, at least eight of which grow in Italy. For people who can't afford the white variety, the more common but less flavourful black type is a common choice. This has also proved possible to farm and is better suited to cooking.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice candidates Roisin Hogan, Solomon Akhtar, Mark Wright, Bianca Miller, Daniel Lassman
tvReview: But which contestants got the boot?
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
Arts and Entertainment
Jennifer Saunders stars as Miss Windsor, Dennis's hysterical French teacher
filmJennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Nabil Bentaleb (centre) celebrates putting Tottenham ahead
footballTottenham 4 Newcastle 0: Spurs fans dreaming of Wembley final after dominant win
Life and Style
Sebastian Siemiatkowski is the 33-year-old co-founder and CEO of Klarna, which provides a simple way for people to buy things online
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engineer (Windows Server, Exchange Server)

£35000 per annum + Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: 3rd Line Support Engine...

Investigo: Finance Analyst

£240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Server / Infrastructure Engineer (Exchange, Windows, VMware)

£32000 - £38000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Serv...

Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virtualisation / Cloud Infrastructure Engineer (VMware, Cloud)

£38000 - £44000 per annum + Bonus and Benefits: Ampersand Consulting LLP: Virt...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum