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Earthly Desires at Il Borgo di Petroio

Jul 24, 2017 Written by: Marianna Dick for Mayfair times
Il Borgo di Petroio

Truffle hunting is an ancient cultural tradition in parts of Italy, still often shrouded in mystery and villainy. Marianne Dick travels to two of the country’s most popular culinary regions to uncover some truths and hopefully, some truffles too.

Earthly Desires

In his epicurean bible published in 1825, The Physiology of Taste, Jean Anthelme Brillat- Savarin defined truffles as “the diamond of the art of cookery”.

Brillat-Savarin’s deduction of the rarest member of the fungus family still rings true almost two centuries later. Even in today’s technologically and scientifically advanced world, the elusive truffle still resists mass cultivation. This stubbornness could be attributed to its dependence on tree roots (they can only grow in a symbiotic relationship with certain species), its fussiness when it comes to the conditions of its subterranean dwelling, or its rare mode of dispersal – via the insects and mammals who devour it. Even if you do chance upon one of these precious nuggets, they will only stay fresh for around 20 days and need to be carefully cared for. Ideally, they should be cleaned with a toothbrush and then kept loosely wrapped in newspaper and put in a glass jar in the fridge.

In Britain, we have two main species: the black summer truffle and the autumn burgundy truffle. The most highly valued black type however, the perigord, is usually found across in France. And when it comes to the mythical white ones (if we’re still talking about diamonds, then these are the sparklist), the majority of Tuber magnatum, better known as Piedmont truffles, are found in northern Italy – particularly the regions of Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna.