In late October we went on a truffle hunt with our guests.
Led by our friend Moreno, a young man who offers a service providing fun things to do in our area, off we went into the mountains of the Sibillini National Park to his friend Alberto’s family homestead.
Many families plant various types of trees in the hopes that truffles will grow for them to harvest and sell, and Alberto’s family has done just that.
What is a truffle?
Briefly, it’s an underground fungus (mushroom) that grows under certain trees. There are different types of truffles, but loosely, they can be divided into black and white. They have a distinct woodsy flavor that is highly sought after by gourmets. They are very perishable and very expensive. A black truffle of the type we found sells for about €500/kilo, and a white truffle €2,500/kilo. Yikes!
Because they grow underground, they need to be sniffed out by trained pigs or dogs. Today dogs are used more than pigs because pigs like to eat truffles, dogs thankfully prefer other food.
Here’s Suzi finding a truffle.
Our area has had a drought since last spring, which of course, affects how many truffles grow. But we were lucky, we (or rather, Suzi the amazing truffle dog) found several black, and even one white one!
We then went to a lovely rustic restaurant in the medieval mountain town of Montefortino that prepared a pasta, amongst other wonderful things that we liberally shaved our just harvested truffles on. Ah what luxury to be able to have that much fresh truffle in one meal…heaven!
Here they are, brushed clean of the mud that clings to them, ready to grate on our pasta.
And here we are, waiting for our food.
Alberto told me several interesting facts about the area.
A long time ago, these steep hills were allotted to Roman soldiers when they retired from the ancient roman army. They cut down the forests and farmed. Many of the families who live here today are descendants of these soldiers.
After the first and second world wars, many farmers left the country to seek their fortune in the cities, and the abandoned farms re-forested themselves, and truffles were to be found in abundance.
Today, truffles are getting harder to find, partly because of climate change and partly, Alberto says because of modern day pollution.
He also told me about his grandparents and their generation, how mostly they slept on bare boards. Those who could grow corn made mattresses by stuffing corn husks into sacks made of a homemade fabric from cane fiber. Canes grow like weeds around here. Apparently you cut the cane into small pieces, soak it for ages until the fibers swell and soften, and then you can spin the fibers and weave them into cloth. Whew. Alberto says in his mother’s kitchen there are still some tea cloths made from cane fiber…it’s pretty tough stuff!
See here for Moreno’s website: http://www.lemarcheholiday.net/marche/