Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Truffle Talk

You might have noticed that Truffles have been in the news a lot this year. I went to my truffle source, Eckhartz Press author Brent Petersen ("Truffle Hunt"), to get a better understanding of why...

What a difference a few hundred kilometers can make! In the Piedmont region of Italy, specifically near Alba, the center of the white truffle universe, truffles are plentiful and (relatively) cheap. That's because there was plentiful rainfall this season. Some reports have truffle prices as much as 30% below last year's.

But, in Dordogne, France, where black diamonds grow, the prized Perigord truffle is in short supply. No rain fell for weeks in the region, causing a tiny truffle harvest. And, those that were found were mostly immature or misshapen.

For some perspective, as recently as the 1960's, the region produced as much as 300 metric tons of truffles per year. Legend places the windfall at 1,000 tons a century ago. Today, 25 tons is the standard harvest.

I've talked about the many reasons for the declining harvest, but two major factors seem to be at play. Both, related to human activity. First, lack of a truffle habitat. Truffles grow in forests which have been cut down to make room for the encroaching human population. Second, climate change has led to erratic weather patterns like drought and heat waves that are not compatible with truffle growth.

For the past two years, Italy's Piedmont region has escaped the climatic factors, but they cannot prevent the march of "human progress." Deforestation has diminished the truffle habitat. And while abundant rainfall has led to a good truffle harvest this year, no amount of rain can hide the fact that overall truffle production is shrinking.

If you'd like to learn more about what is being done to protect the truffle's habitat, check out Save The Truffle. They are dedicated to this important issue.