HOW TO TRUFFLE HUNT IN BAROLO
To coincide with the launch of our first subscription box of the new club Marlo, featuring some of Piedmont's finest wine, we’ve put together a travel guide on how to do one of Piedmont most exciting and unique activities…truffle hunting!
When we talk about truffles, we don’t mean the chocolate kind! Although Piedmont is home to Nutella and consequently the farming of many hazelnut trees, it is also home to rare and valuable little fungus truffles. Yes, we said fungus! Although you would usually associate fungus as something you might want to eat, Piedmont white truffles are referred to as ‘edible gold’ because of how deliciously distinctive their taste is and how difficult they are to hunt. Consequently, they are also classed as one of the most expensive ingredients in the world.
Here's how you can hunt them…
Where should you go to truffle hunt?
There are lots of areas in Piedmont where truffle hunting is at its finest. Truffle hunting takes place in wooded areas, as the fungus form around the root of the trees. The Langhe hills around Barolo and Barbaresco are some of the best areas location wise.
How do white truffles grow?
What gives white truffle it’s price tag aside from its unique taste, is the fact that you cannot farm them, unlike black truffles. White truffles are grown in the wild a few inches below the earth by the roots of trees such as oak, chestnut and hazelnut. It’s the particular fertile soil of clay and marl in Piedmont that the truffle really thrive in.
When is the best time to hunt?
These little gems only grow in certain months of the year. September – December is considered truffle season in Piedmont with the best months being October and November. Some hunters go hunting in the middle of the night when it’s cool and wet, the perfect conditions for truffles to ripen. Most hunts will commence in the early hours of the day though.
How can you find them?
You’ll need a dog! And a trained one specifically in truffle hunting. A lot of the land where people truffle hunt is also usually protected or private so you need to tread carefully. The best option is to find a hunter with a dog. They will be able to take you to special areas where white truffle thrive. We found ours through an Air bnb experience and had a great time. We were the only people hunting with our guide and his dog, which made the experience extra special. Price wise it was very reasonable but do your research and make sure you don’t over pay or get caught up in big groups of people!
How long does it take to find white truffle?
Although dogs can find them easily, truffles are scarce and so it might take hours to find your first one. Most experiences last anywhere from 3-5 hours. Although that sounds like a long time, it passes quickly as you take in the glorious surroundings of the countryside and have a rest every so often to sip on some Barolo.
When truffles are ready to be harvested, they become fragrant and produce a strong aroma, not strong enough for humans to detect but one that dogs can. During the course of your hunt, it’s possible that truffles will suddenly become ripe. Therefore, you may well retrace your steps and find that a truffle has ripened since the first time you were there. This is especially the case during the peak season of October and November.
Can I eat the truffle straight away?
All truffles will need a good wash. Although you won’t be able to bite into it like a granny smith, (don’t forget how precious and powerful these things are), your hunter will either allow you to buy some of the truffle from him or if you’re lucky you will be invited to have a meal with him, most likely in a restaurant. In Piedmont it’s common place to hand over your truffle to the restaurant and ask them to shave it over some pasta or steak tartare. It really is the icing on top of the cake! The hunter will mostly likely sell the remaining truffle on to the restaurant for other customers to enjoy.
Why not coincide your trip with the Alba International White Truffle Fair that runs from October to December with lots of exciting tasting events happening all season long.