Hunting truffles is a long and arduous process that isn’t for the faint of heart. While there are over 140 species of truffles, the French black and Italian white varieties are the most valued. And they certainly present a good game of hide and seek.
In order to find the fruiting fungi, the perfect weather conditions, ecosystem, lack of human interference coupled with the super-sniffing skills of very expensive, highly-trained animals is necessary. It's no walk in the park.
While there are many factors that lead to successfully foraging the delicacies, one thing is for certain; you can’t find truffles without the presence of trees. These black diamonds are found amongst oaks, beech, hazels or poplars. If you’re lucky enough to find them in the wild, you’ll soon see that they are a product of a larger ecosystem that connects the surrounding landscape.
Originally, truffles were sniffed out by highly trained pigs who did their job with great precision and accuracy. However, with their ability to locate the delicacy came an equal skill of gobbling them all up for themselves. Hunters quickly realized that you don’t get in between a pig and a truffle, even if it'll pay the mortgage… Enter, the canine.
The truffle-sniffing pig had its day, and has since been replaced by hunting canines. Pointers, Jack Russels, cockers and hounds have proven best for succesful truffle-hunting. While the dog does most of the work, it's not alone in the pursuit. When a truffle is located, it’s then the human hunter's responsibility to smell the rare find to determine if it is ripe and ready for harvesting. An unripe truffle is considered worthless in the culinary world, as the taste and aroma have yet to develop. Black truffles have a very strong, earthy smell - which oddly is not reflective of their taste. Instead, they are subtle in flavor with earthy, nutty, and meaty notes that are unique to not only the species, but to each individual truffle itself. The aroma has been described as utterly "intoxicating". Much like most agriculture, farming has taken over truffleculture - 70% of truffles are now cultivated. Climate change and the loss of natural woodlands hasn't helped, as wild truffles are even more rare to find naturally occurring than ever before. Since just the 19th century in France, the number has fallen from over 1,000 tonnes a season – to just 30. Some UK scientists believe that truffles could go extinct within 50 years if our current climate crisis remains.
Not only are truffles the most expensive food by weight in the world, they’re also an aphrodisiac. It’s clear why these rare mushrooms have been trafficked like drugs, and stolen by thugs.
Capitalism will be capitalism, and countries including the US have recognized the value of this special fungi. With that has come many attempts to cultivate the product or mimic the essence. However, without the combination of European red soil and rainy summers, limited success has been yielded.
The rich, earthy flavors simply cannot be recreated without the perfect environment for them to occur organically. To date, 1Kg (2.2lb) of truffles can reach up to a whopping $4,000.
Now, here's the juicy juice... There is a so-called “Truffle Mafia”. The org is known for stealing large amounts of truffles from hunters and cultivators. Even worse, the owner’s truffle-sniffing, highly trained dogs are taken as well. It’s become quite the scandalous, and unsuspecting industry of crime. China has entered the truffle game with full force. The Red Dragon is exporting loads of truffles to France that are of no comparison to the delicacy they’re aiming to mimic or produce.
Chinese truffles are harvested in mass with rakes, picking up all in its path. This results in truffles harvested before ripening, resulting in tasteless truffles with no fragrance.
Authentic French truffles sell for a price of $2,000 a Kg, while Chinese go for a mere $60. Naturally, many have found that they can make a substantial profit by mixing the French and Chinese varieties while marketing the truffles to be authentically French. Average consumers aren't alone in being duped by these fungi felons. French restaurants paying top dollar for truffles have fallen victim to the scam having no clue of the origins of the truffles. That’s why we’ve gone great lengths to find authentic truffles to add to your culinary arsenal, without contributing to truffle endangerment. Our process of mixing the perfect balance of authentic French truffles with complementary flavors allows us to maximize the precious, yet endangered resource - while maintaining the purest essence of the fungi that has disrupted an industry.