The Secret of the Truffle
It’s simple really we all love to vacation in Italy and we all have had a deep ongoing relationship with this captivatingly sexy, earthy, deeply aromatic fungus known as a truffle. Yes, is a fungus … who knew right? When I was young I thought truffles were fairy food and I’d dream of having magical powers with every bite. I know there is nothing else that taste like a truffle and its story is natures magic 4 Real.
It grows underground and takes a full year for one tree to produce one truffle. Once these little fungi attach it goes on to form a beautiful symbiotic exchange with specific trees and bushes of essential nutritional substances that makes it taste accordingly to the tree and soil it lives in and becomes irresistibly good to eat. In fact, the boars, dogs are not the only ones who root it out. People all over the world have been to known to pay outrageous prices for The King” (tartufo bianco). Harvesters with their trained dogs and pigs gather when the leaves are crimson hued in September all the way into December in the Northern Piedmont region. Next time you’re on a trip to Italy visit the town of Alba and try the specialty; a rich velvety smooth, creamy risotto with fresh raw thinly shaved white truffle on top … All your senses will be forever rewarded and you will understand what all the fuss is about. Another hot spot is the Marche region near Aqualanga that is not so well known.
Here is a delectable Italian truffle recipe to try your hand at home with some good truffle oil or the real thing if you’re lucky to have it.
There are 20 varieties of truffles in Tuscany but only eight are edible in Italy. I met with a trifolau: these are the secretive truffle harvesters. No amount of cajoling would change the poker face he had when it came to weather he had a good or bad day of harvest. He wasn’t about to give up any trade secrets. They are all known to walk in early morning dense fogs and to take winding off the path roads to confuse any poachers who might be trying to learn where their special grove is hidden.
As we walked together in the woods in silence, I had no idea where we were really but his trusty bright eyed, quick footed little mongrel dog was with him and he had his nose to the ground all the while. It was not long when he rushed over to a tree and began digging with all his might. Raffaele ran after him and had to stop him before he damaged his find or ate it. He called me over and gave me a special tool required by law to use called a “vanghetto” or little spade. fitted with a cutting blade on a short handle. I dug gently into the soft, damp, clayey earth around the root of the tree squinting to see something … it was just like trying to find buried treasure.
As the dirt fell away my heart started to pound, the dog grew silent and on point. You could have heard a pin drop. I saw its knobby head and Raffaele gave a jubilant cry, “Echo, echo, echo0