The truffle crisis


As you may or may not know, there is a truffle crisis in Europe.



The European black truffle, Tuber melanosporum, is cherished by gastronomes everywhere. It has an indescribable flavor and aroma. It is rare and cannot be cultivated easily. It is hunted by dogs and pigs, which dig them up, but which are not allowed to eat them. (Apollonia tells me that the pigs are given acorns as a reward. Do you call that justice?) It grows symbiotically with the roots of certain trees, usually the oak.



(There are also white truffles (Tuber magnatum), and pecan truffles, and Oregon truffles. Go read about them on Wikipedia.)



The European truffle crop has been much smaller lately, partly due to climate change. Given how much demand there is for them, this is a problem.



There are also Chinese truffles (Tuber himalayensis / Tuber indicus). They grow much more easily than their European cousins. They have little or no flavor. They are being brought to Europe, and mixed in with European truffles, the way cocaine dealers mix flour or sugar in with their product.



Also: the spores of the Chinese truffle are beginning to escape into the local environment, and Chinese truffles are now growing in Europe. It is feared that, like kudzu, the Chinese truffle will crowd out the aristrocratic European varieties.



(I have never knowingly tasted a truffle. I think I’ve had things with truffles in them, but I have no clear recollection. Apollonia tells me that her Italian relatives have whole rooms full of them, and eat them like apples, but I am never sure how much faith to put in her little stories.)



I have given before the recipe for salade Rossini.  I have never made it. Perhaps I never will. But I like reading (and thinking about) the recipe:



·       Potatoes cooked in chicken stock;

·       Mussels (a third less than the potatoes);

·       “As many truffles as the budget will allow, sliced and cooked in champagne”;

·       A nice fruity vinegar and olive oil and salt and pepper and some tarragon over all. 



It sounds delicious.



Children: don’t allow the Chinese truffle to ruin our imaginary salade Rossini. Insist on the black European truffle.



Western culture depends upon it.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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