Summary: Twenty to thirty sorts of truffle fungi can be harvested in Europe, which is the continent with the oldest tradition of truffle consumption. In the 14th century, the most expensive white and black truffles were reserved for the tables of French kings and Italian popes, but in the 20th century, the occurrence of truffle festivals in France, Italy, and Spain somehow democratized truffle consumption. This democratization has been accelerated even further by the current boom of truffle fairs all over Europe (in Hungary, Sweden, Croatia, Switzerland, etc.). Links to relevant fairs are given hereafter.
Tell me more…
Europe harbors the most expensive truffles in the world including the white truffle Tuber magnatum and the black truffle Tuber melanosporum which sell at thousands of euros per kilogram. The continent has a long tradition with truffle fungi since truffles were already consumed during the 14th century by Italian popes and French kings. During the 18th century, the royal dynasty of Savoy in Italy was using truffles as promotional gifts to advance their political agenda. Since those times, the notoriety and demand of truffles have not ceased to increase, and truffles have been quoted with superlatives by world-renowned chefs and gastronomes.
Truffles are naturally found in many European countries, yet three countries typically jump to mind when talking about these precious fungi: Italy, France, and Spain. This is not only because those countries are a natural habitat for two of the most expensive white and black truffle sorts, but also because they have developed a real culinary art around truffle fungi. Historical records nevertheless show that truffles have been harvested since the 17th century in other European regions as well, for instance, the UK, Slovakia, Poland, Austria, and Germany. Indeed, the black truffle Tuber aestivum, known as the summer truffle, naturally occurs almost everywhere in Europe. Similarly, the black truffle Tuber melanosporum, also referred to as the winter black truffle, is not only found in southern France but also in Spain and even in some parts of Croatia. Last, the white truffle Tuber magnatum, often referred to as the Italian truffle of Piedmont abounds in numerous Eastern European countries (i.e. Croatia, Serbia, Hungary, Bulgaria).
White, black, and summer truffles are not the only truffles found in Europe since the continent harbors approximately 20-30 truffle sorts out of an estimated 180 sorts worldwide. If these other European truffles are considerably cheaper than the “most famous” white and black truffles, their flavors are not less enticing as illustrated in the following examples. Tuber mesentericum is a black truffle harvested all over Europe. It has a strong and surprising pungent smell reminiscent of asphalt that resists cooking much better than any other truffle sort. In the French region of Lorraine, it is for instance used to prepare a succulent stuffed chicken. Another “less-known” truffle is the whitish Italian truffle Tuber borchii which has a slightly garlicy, bacon and mushroom-like flavor that can add a creative note to any dish. Last, the black truffle Tuber macrosporum, commonly found in Eastern Europe, has a flavor that is reminiscent of the notorious white truffle while costing 10 times less! The latter examples illustrate that the flavor diversity of truffle fungi is much larger than what is presented by the food industry. But where to find these “rare” or less-known truffles? Continue reading…
Truffle festivals in Europe
The following list is certainly non-exhaustive since hundreds of European truffle festivals might be organized every year. It however provides an overview of some of the most famous but also less known truffle markets. For completeness feel free to add a comment after the blog if your favorite truffle festival is not listed here.
Italy: the Alba white truffle fair takes place in autumn in northern Italy, the Norcia and the Bagnoli black truffle festivals occur during the same season in central and southern Italy. A list of major Italian truffle fairs can be found here. Note that the black truffle Tuber mesentericum with its characteristic and pungent smell reminiscent of asphalt can be tasted in the Bagnoli Festival.
France: numerous truffle festivals are organized in France, mostly displaying various black truffle sorts. One of the most famous and oldest one is the Richerence market that typically take place from November to March. Another well known market located nearby is the one of Uzès. These markets mostly sell Tuber melanosporum, known in France as the “Perigord truffle”.
Spain: Spain is certainly the largest producer of the winter black truffle Tuber melanosporum, but the country also hosts many other truffle sorts. Numerous truffle markets take place in late autumn/winter mostly in the region of Catalunya. Some noteworthy markets are the ones of Vic and Centelles and Sarrión mostly selling Tuber melanosporum.
Hungary, Croatia, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria & Greece: the number of truffle festivals occurring in Europe has tremendously increased over the last 10 years, mostly in countries where truffles were less known or have been forgotten. As a non-exhaustive list, white and black truffle sorts can be tasted at the following truffle festivals in Hungary, Sweden, Switzerland (Bonvillars, Fribourg), Croatia, Austria and Greece.
Why is this relevant?
Looking at the occurrence of truffle fungi in Europe reveals that truffles can be found all over the continent, even in countries where most people ignore their existence (i.e. Sweden, Hungary). Historical records further exemplify that truffles were harvested all over Europe already five centuries ago.
Written by Richard Splivallo
Richard is the CEO of Nectariss and a truffle expert. As a former university professor, he has dedicated almost 20 years of his life to better understand the complex biology of truffle fungi and has authored more than 25 scientific publications on that topic.