In early July, Severino and Italo, local farmers and passionate tartufari, were speculating on the debut of this summer’s scorzone (black summer truffle). Italo – a truffler for thirty years now – predicted July 8th as the hopeful day. “Cambia la luna,” he explained: hopefully, the rising moon would nudge the below-ground spores towards truffle maturation… finalmente. Severino (at 86, our oldest tartufaro) laments the short season: licensed tartufari can hunt the black summer truffle from June 1st until August 31st but non-stop rains and cool weather have stunted truffle growth. Although a fungus and therefore needing moisture, the truffle needs warmth, too.
“Hopefully, we’ll find something soon”, young Marco added as he joined us. Truffle hunter for twelve years now – “si fa solo per passione” (you do this only for passion). Marco told me that a licensed tartufaro can sell up to 5 kilos per year but – like Italo and Severino – he brings home his “black gold” to his family. Off to check nearby truffle areas, Marco took me to his truck to meet Chicca (the favorite of his three truffle dogs).
Last year in July, I remember elderly Giuseppe, hungrily munching a panino di mortadella after a successful morning, an orange-sized truffle in his other hand. Outside, he’d proudly introduced me to his mongrel truffle dog, the truffle about as big as her head! I remember shy Stefano’s quiet euphoria, too, after a stellar morning hunt yielded the prized tartufo bianco.
This summer truffle season, dig into a plate of fettuccine al tartufo or bruschetta mounded with shaved truffle (if white truffle, you’re launched into paradiso)! And remember to put your nose close to that earthy goodness and inhale deeply.
Read some more by Anne about truffles.