The white gold of Tuscany

by Marco Gemelli

Experts were optimistic: this year the white Tuscan truffle has been the protagonist on the tables in restaurants and homes. The esteemed hypogeous mushroom – which belongs to the family of tubers (Tuber mgnatum pico)but not a tuber – finds, in Tuscan woods, a series of factors which render it among the most appreciated in Italy and the world. This is well known by truffle hunters, who, until the end of the year go around the paths armed with spades and accompanied with dogs of a super-fine sense of smell. From the Sienese clay hills to San Giovanni d’Asso, from San Miniato to the hills of Pisa and the Chianti until Valdelsa, Mugello, Val Tiberina and Casentino, the truffle-growing areas in the region draw out a naturalistic-culinary itinerary which has no equal. Once cleaned, the white truffle presents a yellowish colour with greenish tones, with a smooth surface and sizes that range from a peanut to a grapefruit. Instead, inside is a faded brown with reddish hues and thin lighter veining.  It must be strictly eaten fresh and the “great classics” are to have it with fresh pasta, eggs or potatoes. If events for enthusiasts are not lacking, insiders all agree it has been a rich year: “An important increase,” Cristiano Savini explains, fourth generation of a truffle-searching family, “enabling to keep the prices accessible both for restaurants and family use. The selling price has a range of between 2,000 and 4,000euros/kg but it is always a good idea to have a look at the online truffle bank, updated every week. An interesting movement is developing around the white truffle in Tuscany: the awareness raising actions carried out in the last five years are yielding fruit and it is important to insist on the culture of the product in order for this course to continue.” After all, the truffle is the drive for a more complex economy: “Without investments in the culture of the product,” adds Savini, who in 2007 found a world-record truffle, “even the woods would suffer: the white truffle has now become a symbol of the safeguarding, the care and revival of the whole ecosystem especially regarding landslides, floods or frosts. Where truffles grow, the environment is healthy: just think of the Sienese clay hills where the quality has grown thanks to major attention. The landlords and truffle companies are now aware of having a treasure at hand: first, the important Tuscan families were interested in vineyards and sacrificed the truffle-growing areas for vineyards, now this tendency has inverted. From our side,” he concludes, “we have exceeded 10 thousand annual visits in companies with the truffle experience and acquired 33 organic hectares, a natural truffle-growing area in the heart of Palaia on the hills of Pisa where a “stylish” one will be made.”

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