Will The Truffle Soon Grow Here In BC?
Mother Nature routinely throws us something extraordinary to ponder, discuss, pontificate over and, in the best cases, to digest. There are flavours from her cupboard that science simply cannot reproduce, imitate or ever have a hope of surpassing. A few spring to mind – saffron, vanilla, cinnamon, certain herbs and of course, truffles…(there are certainly more so please comment on whatever else you can add).
I will freely admit I am smitten by truffles – the mystery, intrigue, suspicion, subtly delicious flavour and devious way in which they are traded around the world. Anyone who has tried the gnarly beast and who is not averse to tastes of the earth will know that there is nothing to replace this fantastic and rare gift.
It is a fact that we cannot afford to regularly purchase and eat the tubers themselves as they cost up to $1700 per kg, but there are many great options to get the flavour without the bankruptcy. My personal favourite is truffle oil. Even here there are a huge range of options. Some thimble sized bottles will run $15-20. Others, usually olive oils flavoured with truffles can be much more affordable with $15-20 getting you 375-500ml. To me, this is where the action is. They can almost taste as strong as pure oils yet for a much lower price (we get ours at Valoroso Foods in Kelowna). A free pour over the risotto or into the sauce just before serving can create that magical scent in the room and the strangely profound feeling in the body, all without breaking the bank.
The very best use, though, must be popcorn, truffled popcorn. Pop the corns, toss in some oil, put on the DVD, and open the bubbly. Decadence has surely been achieved. Truffle oil is at its best added just prior to serving. The volatile aromas disappear quickly and are at their strongest when the oil hits the heated rice, pasta, sauce or whatever you have come up with.
We tend to think of truffles as something European, yet there is a growing effort to replicate the truffle magic around the world. Australia, New Zealand, parts of the USA and various regions in Europe have been successful in inoculating trees and propagating truffles. Now BC is getting in on the game. It just so happens that parts of our southern BC climate may well be suitable to this fungal gold. There is, apparently, even a Truffle Association of BC (TABC).
Efforts are underway but the wait will be long. A typical time frame is 8-10 years from planting the inoculated oak or hazelnut before the bounty may start to appear. It is the highly prized Black Perigord Truffle that is the goal. Trial plots are underway in Duncan, Abbotsford, and Oyama. The best website for the low down (and details as to how to get your own tree!) is www.trufficulture.ca.
So plant your tree, anticipate another culinary gem added to the bounty of our province. In the meantime, pour the oil, get the taste, and prepare yourself.
Rhys Pender is a wine educator, freelance wine writer, wine judge and consultant to the industry. Visit his company Wine Plus+ online at www.wineplus.ca.