An Interview With Our Truffle Hunter
Sibillini Mountain National Park
We use Truffle hunters based in and around Central and Northern Italy, who come from families who have been involved in Truffle hunting for generations. Two or even three generations of Truffle hunters often occupy the same large family home, handing down the closely guarded secrets of their trade and inculcating the next generation into the mysteries of the art.
Aside from the training and care of the dogs and an in depth knowledge of Truffles, the most important of these, of course, is the actual location of their ‘hunting grounds’ which they will never divulge to anyone outside the family.
The photo on the right shows ‘Topo’ digging up a small Black Winter Truffle while Felice looks on.
The dogs, pure bred Lagotto Romagnala, are housed near the family home. They are introduced to Truffles and commence their training from a very early age, with puppies being taught to ‘fetch’ summer Truffles almost as soon as they can walk. The males start active hunting from around 3 years, whereas the females start earlier at around 18 months.
Different soil types determine how deep Truffles are found. In Umbria and Le Marche Black Winter Truffles are generally found just under the surface of the ground, at up to a maximum of 10 centimetres, whereas White Truffles are found much deeper, sometimes at up to 60 centimetres below ground.
Each family is fiercely proud of their own Truffles, defending them even to the point of insisting that their side of the valley, mountain or particular area of forest is superior to all others not only in Italy but the entire world!!
Naturally all other discerning buyers insist on their Truffles only. Much mystique accompanies this loyalty with families insisting on hunting only during particular phases of the moon (Truffles are bigger and more flavoursome after the new moon according to some), or at particular times of night.
Rumours abound that the Truffle markets are full of conmen selling inferior quality truffles (bianchetto that are sold as white Truffles or Chinese black Truffles injected with Truffle Oil and passed off as the real thing). And then there are the muttered tales of dogs being stolen or poisoned in the middle of the night, and Truffle hunters being followed and mugged on the way back from their hunting trips.
Of course most of this folklore should be taken with a pinch of salt, but it all helps to enhance the mystery and intrigue of the elusive Truffle.