Destinations / GO
AS THE BLACK winter truffle har- vesting season winds down this month, those of us who partake in the earthy gems have reason to celebrate. Soon — within the
next t wo years — it seems we will have a viable
local source for this famous fungus.
For this development, thanks go to the
But now ATC is cultivating black truffles in
Bay Area–based American Truffle Company
(ATC), whose chief scientist, Paul Thomas
(also lead researcher and managing director
of Mycorrhizal Systems Ltd., in London),
has developed a way to cultivate the two
most valuable black European variet-
ies, Périgord (aka black diamonds) and
The demand for these black truffles far
exceeds supply, and they command remarkably
high prices (the black Périgord, for example, can
fetch $1,000-plus a pound). Unlike the white
truffles of Italy, which have eluded cultivation
efforts, European black truffles can and have
been cultivated for decades — perhaps centu-
ries. Their production has occurred almost
exclusively in Europe, predominately France,
followed by Spain and Italy, with small amounts
originating in Slovenia, Croatia and Australia.
North America, where the wine growing regions
of California offer particularly suitable climates
and soils and experienced growers.
Burgundy, through a technique considered
one of the most technologically advanced,
thorough and scientific methods seen any-
where in the world.
Truffles are a kind of underground mush-
room that grow on the roots of particular
host trees — especially oaks and filberts.
There are hundreds of species of truffles,
but the fruiting body of some, most notably
the European black Périgord truffles (Tuber
melanosporum), harvested in the winter, and
Burgundy truffles (Tuber aestivum/uncina-tum), harvested in the summer, are highly
prized by top chefs and connoisseurs around
the world for their exquisite flavor.