Dish of truffles

Truffles are the wave of the future…Foodies wax ecstatic over truffles. The late food writer Josh Ozersky described their aroma as “a combination of newly plowed soil, fall rain, burrowing earthworms, and the pungent memory of lost youth and old love affairs.” A few slices shaved over a dish can turn the ordinary into the extraordinary. Culinarily, that’s hard to beat. Today truffles are so in demand that cautious restaurateurs store their precious and pricey fungi in safes.

Like any commodity that is rare and costs the earth—wines, jewels, van Goghs, Penny Black stamps—truffles are now targets of theft, trafficking, fakery, and fraud. In 2012, thieves broke into a warehouse belonging to Italy’s Urbani Tartufi, the world’s largest truffle purveyor, and made off with over $60,000-worth of premium truffles. In truffle season, the French police throw up road blocks and search suspicious cars. Truffle foragers lucky enough to have found a profitable hunting ground keep the location secret and pass it down to their heirs…

The trouble with truffles is that there are a lot fewer of them than there used to be. The European truffle harvest, which topped 2,000 annual tons a hundred years ago, is now down to a mere 20 or so, a victim of climate change’s elevated temperatures and decreasing rainfall…

Others are establishing orchards of the fabled T. melanosporum on American soil…Robert Chang and Dr. Paul Thomas of the American Truffle Company partner with hopeful truffle growers, providing high-class seedlings inoculated with either black winter (T. melanosporum) or black summer (T. aestivum/ uncinatum) spores.

Truffle farming isn’t cheap. Chang estimates it costs somewhere between $15,000 and $20,000 to establish a truffle orchard. But if all goes well, at an average production rate of 35 to 80 pounds of truffles per acre per year, lucky owners can expect an annual profit of $42,000 to $96,000.

And failing that, should you live in a truffle-unfriendly climate, you can at the very least adopt your own French truffle tree.

These gorgeous black truffles pictured in the image will set you back about $900-1,200 per pound. The best Italian white ones? That will cost you more like $3,000 per pound…Read the article in full.