Italy's white truffle hunters worry about climate change

Truffle hunter, or "Trifulau", Carlo Marenda has a 20 gram white truffle he found with his dog Buk during a search through the "Donna di Langa" forest, in the Langhe-Roero and Monferrato landscapes of Piedmont near Alba, November 10, 2019.

Miguel Medina | AFP | Getty Images

Rising global temperatures worry truffle hunters around the Italian city of Alba, where the most valued samples can fetch twice the gold price.

This particularly warm October, eight of 1[ads1]0 white truffles uncovered by Carlo Olivero with his trusty 3-year-old dog Steel were dark, withered and dried out.

"They are clearly signs of the temperatures," Olivero said, holding one that he kept in his pocket. The rest he sent to soil so that spores could spread and hopefully replenish future production.

Alba, located in the northwest region of Piedmont, has earned the moniker "the world's white truffle capital" for its particularly fragrant amount of truffle, its truffle show every fall, and the annual charity auction, which pushes the prices of tuber magnum pico up into the stratosphere [19659] A truffle weighing 1,500 grams (2 pounds, 3.4 ounces) fetched 120,000 euros ($ 133,000) – more than double the price of gold – from a Hong Kong buyer at this year's auction.

The long-term effect of rising temperatures on the highly valued white truffles is still being studied, but they, like other mushrooms, grow best under cool, rainy conditions. Climate change has actually delayed peak production from October to November.

"There have been some r that we have concerned us for truffle production, "said Antonio Degiacomi, president of Italy's National Center for Truffle Studies. "We've had a terrible year for the last three seasons, an excellent season and one that's decent."

To counteract the long-term impact of climate change on the production of the highly valued white truffle, experts have initiated initiatives to better preserve the territory where they grow. The goal is to preserve the symbiosis between the truffle and the host plant by encouraging symbiosis between the truffle hunter and the landowner – whose interests often conflict.

Olivero remembered a producer of the region's famous Barolo red wine who wanted to cut down two oak trees – trees that are perfect hosts for truffles – that shaded his vines.

"I told him, & # 39; The day you take all the oaks, only you want to drink your wine, & # 39;" said Olivero. "Because truffle and Barolo are two formidable components. It's a system that works on the table, but must go together first in nature."

Unlike the more common black truffle, so delicate white truffles cannot be grown so far. , which makes preserving their environment critical.

Incentives include a program that pays 24 euros ($ 26) a year to property owners to maintain host trees they may otherwise remove. Truffle Associations also enter into agreements with absentee landowners to keep their wooded property cleared in a way that promotes truffle growth.

This year's charity auction white truffle price – 12,000 euros for 100 grams ($ 13,200 for 3.5 grams) – compared to a high price at this year's fair of around 380 euros per 100 grams ($ 400 for 3.5 grams). Real price can increase to as much as 750 euros ($ 850) per 100 grams this year with scarce production.

After an unusually hot and long summer, the humid, foggy weather in November proved perfect for truffle hunting around Alba. [19659002] "These days, the quality is particularly high," said Truffle Judge Stefano Cometti. "The low temperatures enhance the truffle's organic properties and force it to retain its aroma."

It included a 730 gram (1 pound, 9.75 ounce) white truffle unveiled by Davide Curzietti on Saturday, the largest of the annual truffle fair to date. The judges confirmed the provenance of the behemoth tuber, which Curzietti immediately sold to a restaurant in Osaka for 3800 euros ($ 4200). .

Even after more than four decades of truffle hunting, Olivero still feels emotional when Steel stops his energetic sniffing of the damp ground.

The steel nose is flawless. Through a blanket of wet autumn leaves and muddy soil, the dog pick up the sweet, distinctive aroma of a white truffle and signal his findings by quickly digging on the surface.

"I call it the magic moment because it means there is something down there that we were looking for. We still do not know the dimensions, how big it will be, but the heartbeat goes up because we know at the moment that it is something, & # 39; & # 39; said Olivero.

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