Il tartufo

The truffle, both white and black, is a "green spy", in the sense that in environments that are polluted or used for intensive agriculture, they cannot develop. It is a natural product that can be collected anywhere, with the exception of fenced land or land bearing a "private property" sign. Only the black truffles and the summer truffles can be in part "cultivated" through a system of mycorhization of plants, that is to inject the roots of plants the spores of the truffle. Provided that this is carried out in appropriate regions and you need to wait at least seven years before you see the results.

In its natural state, the truffle is born at the edge of woods, in more or less wide clearings or at the edges of the roads in the countryside, but not away from the trees with which they live in symbiosis, at a depth of 10÷20 cm. They prefer soil that is cool and damp, naturally sedimentary marly-limestone at an average altitude of 700 meters. The truffle compatible area can be flat or inclined, but it must be wetted by rain in spring and summer, close to the water courses on valley floors, but without stagnation.

In Piedmont the hunters, defined trifolao (truffle hunter) number approximately 10,000 and are provided with a regular licenses issued after the annual payment of a regional fee, by the municipal administration of the territory in which they intend to carry out the search. Since the truffle tends to grow each year in the same places, the searches usually take place at night or at dawn; this way, the more expert searchers maintain the secrecy of the places.

Once hunters used both dogs and pigs, but the latter had already been abandoned at the beginning of the last century. The best truffle dog is the so-called "mongrels", defined tabui in Piedmontese dialect. Not all of the dogs become good truffle finders: it must have a particularly developed sense of smell, such as hunting dogs. Each subject must be patiently trained by a master expert. In addition to mongrels, the most suitable races are the Water Dog of Romagna, the Italian Wire-haired Pointer and the Italian Pointer. The training and research take place following a ritual that involves the truffle hunter and his dog with criteria of both friendship and obedience at the same time. To search for and find truffles is a fun game for the dog and, for any trifolao (truffle hunter) and a source of great satisfaction that goes far beyond the economic gain.

(Texts and images kindly provided by the National Truffle Studies Center)