For a good few years now I’ve been trying to get the hunters to take pictures of the truffles as they find them. They are usually too preoccupied with the job of getting the truffles out of the ground to remember to photograph the event. I really hope that this post will encourage them to keep a record.
This wasn’t the biggest truffle they found this morning but it was probably the prettiest.
Dog hands over to hunter
The day started at first light. Truffles have been thin on the ground until now but today there were signs that the season is picking up. In the photo above you get a close-up of a truffle which has just been exposed. This one was found at around 11am today (4th November 2019) by John and Reggie. Reg picked up the scent on the air, went over to the spot and began to dig. An experienced dog is cautious and doesn’t start pawing away furiously. A scratched truffle is less valuable so the dog has to be careful and know how far down to dig before handing over to the hunter who will begin the delicate extraction work.
The truffle hunter has a special tool, a small instrument called a vanghetto which he or she uses to gently move the earth from around the truffle. White truffles must first be loosened from the surrounding roots otherwise they could break. The truffle in the picture above would be fairly easy to extract as the ground is soft and there is little in the way of entanglement.
This truffle was easy to unearth
Once the truffle has been unearthed, the hole must always be refilled and carefully covered. Failure to do this puts future truffle growth at risk, spores or immature truffles exposed to air will either dry up or rot. As well as this, empty holes are a dead giveaway that the area is a known truffle spot. A good truffle hunter leaves no trace behind.
Trufflers often work in pairs. A second set of hands can be useful when you need to both
unearth truffles and manage the dogs
Here you can see the hunter’s special tool – the vanhetto, two happy dogs and a near perfect truffle!
Once a truffle is dug up, it is wrapped and kept in a cool bag which the hunter carries over his shoulder. This bag also contains dog snacks. Reg is a big fan of sausages and so that is how he gets paid for his part in the collaboration. At the end of the morning, the truffles are taken home where they are brushed, weighed and categorized. Any truffles that will be sent abroad are packed on ice and sent via DHL Express. Hunters grab a quick lunch and go out again until it gets dark. If the morning dogs seem tired there is a change over and a fresh pair of legs.
Back at home truffles are cleaned (not washed),weighed and categorized.
This season got off to a very slow start and white truffles are still in short supply. This means that prices are quite high for November which is usually the cheapest month to buy white truffles. The Acqualagna Exchange (Borsa) set the prices for white truffles this week as follows:
Pieces weighing 0-15 grams – 1,700 euros per kilo
Pieces weighing 15- 50 grams – 2,400 euros per kilo
Pieces weighing 50 -100 grams – 3,100 euros per kilo
These are the prices in Italy and the further away customers are, the more they can expect to pay. For example, UK prices for the same week would be around 300 euros more per kilo across the board. US customers would pay more than double the price. Urbani, for instance are currently selling 50 gr of truffle at around $7,000 per kilo.
When it comes to the special large pieces or giants, they will have their own individual price tag. Generally speaking the larger the truffle, the more it costs per kilo. Truffles are priced in a similar way to diamonds. A prize truffle weighing one kilo has been known to fetch up to 100,000 euros at auction. However one kilo made up of small truffles under 15 grams each will cost a fraction of that price (1,700 euros if you bought them this week).
The smaller truffle weighs around 20 grams. at 2,400 per kilo it would cost about 48 euros.
Looking ahead, there’s rain forecast for the days ahead which means that supply will drop even further. Extremely wet weather makes it impossible for the hunters to go out which might drive prices up even further. And make truffles even more difficult to find.
If you are having problems sourcing fresh truffles, we might be able to help, so feel free to contact us.