By Nicholas Gill
Truffles, essentially a fungus that grow on live trees such as oak and hazel in very specific conditions, are one of the most expensive and sought-after foods in the world. As there’s not a way to force truffle growth, it’s up to mother nature to provide and, unlike morels and chanterelles, they grow underground and really don’t like to be found (hint: you’ll probably need a trained truffle dog to find one). While Western Europe is still the epicenter of the truffle harvest, other regions are showing promise. Sure, you can buy them at markup prices online or at auctions, though for the best quality and deals you might need to go right to the source.
The most valuable truffles in the world, coming in at a few thousand dollars per pound, are white truffles most often found in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of northern Italy. To get the very best of the best, you’ll need to get to the town of Alba in early November where jetset buyers and Michelin starred restaurants from all over the world bid at auction at the Castle of Grinzane Cavour.
Castello di Grinzane, Italy. Photo courtesy of Castello di Grinzane.
The Périgord truffle, a black truffle with a mild buttery earthiness aroma, comes most famously from the Vaucluse department of Provence. Called le diamant noir, or the black diamond, the best selection can be found at the truffle markets in the towns of Carpentras and Richerenches, which take place every Friday and Saturday from December to mid-March.
Périgord Truffles. Photo via Tall Timbers Manjimup, Australia.
Truffle market. Carpentras, France.
Gúdar Javalambre, Spain
While black truffles aren’t used much in Spain, they are being found in abundance in this remote, sparsely populated district in the Maestrazgo mountains where vast plantations of holm oak trees were planted in the 1980s. Production now rivals France and you can find them in early December at the annual Feria Monográfica de la Trufa.
Spanish black truffle. Photo via Truffle Grove.
O’Higgins and Aysen, Chile
What’s particularly great about the Périgord truffles from the Southern Hemisphere is that they are sold during the summers of the northern hemisphere, giving the opportunity to pair them with other produce when it’s at its peak. While Chile’s truffle industry is in its infancy and it only recently began exporting non-processed versions, the quality has become very good. You’ll find them through special importers like Regalis Foods in New York.
Chilean white truffle. Photo courtesy of Regalis Foods.
Western Australia, Australia
Australia has quietly become the largest black truffle producer in the world outside of western Europe. The epicenter is the state of Western Australia, specifically the town of Manjimup south of Perth, where the the Truffle & Wine Co., which produces half of the country’s supply, is based.
Fresh black truffle. Truffle & Wine Co. Manjimup, Western Australia. Photo via Truffle Wine & Co.
Appalachian Mountains and Pacific Northwest, United States: Black Perigord truffles and Burgundy truffles are cultivated in places like Tennessee, however, no one has been able to harvest enough to make it a commercial success and the small amount that is produced tends to be sold direct to restaurants. In the Pacific Northwest, four native species of white, black, and brown species grow wild. They are usually discovered raked and damaged, however, more are using dogs to find them and prices have risen dramatically and are sold through retailers like Oregon Mushrooms.
Fresh white Oregon truffles. Photo via Oregon Mushrooms.