Friday, 1 October 2010

Friday Fungus: In search of the Scottish truffle!

Truffles. The caviar of fungus. Exclusive, expensive and intense of flavour. Prized about all other mushrooms – whether the white truffle of Umbria or the black truffle of Perigord. And the only fungus with a special breed of dog to search for it!

And now, it seems the truffle is growing in a Scottish primary school! Except we’re not sure. As the BBC’s chosen wild food expert, Andrew Fraser, points out:

"They are truffles - we just don't know what sort they are," he said. "They're not Scottish summer truffles. I need to get another expert to look at them. They're a whitey-brown colour - but white truffles have never been found in the UK before."

So it isn’t a white truffle then (unless something very strange is happening in Perthshire). The main British truffle is the summer truffle which is a caramel colour and (I’m told) can be cultivated in the same manner as the white and black truffles of Europe are cultivated.

“…the biologist Dr Paul Thomas whose business, Plantation Systems, has pioneered a way of cultivating summer truffles in the UK. A self-confessed truffle lover, Dr Thomas used his expertise as a biologist to find a way of impregnating the roots of trees with truffle fungus in the laboratory and then transferring the saplings onto one of four plantations across the UK. "We took a load of root samples out of the ground a few weeks ago and had a look under the microscope and the fungus was positively thriving," he said. "That's almost definitely down to the rain; British truffles simply love summer rain."

That being said the picture does seem to me to suggest that the Perth Truffle is a summer truffle of some sort:

Britain's summer truffle, the only variant grown in the UK that is eaten, is a caramel-coloured species with white veins that has a nutty and sometimes gritty consistency and can fetch up to £300/lb.

All good stuff! Enjoy those truffles!

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