The white truffle is an alluring and mysterious flower of the ascomycete fungus. It’s the holy grail tuber to many a food lover — they’re rare, harvested in a short season, and the best of the species are only found in a few small valleys around Alba, in northern Italy. They’re hunted with hounds (while black truffles are commonly hunted with hogs), which adds to the treasure-seeking narrative. All of this equates to a high cost of entry on this particular funky foodie ride. Most of the time. This year heavy rains during the summer and early autumn caused an earlier than expected bloom around Alba and white truffle season started about two months early. Better still: They’re having a bumper crop.
As a result, prices have taken a major dive — meaning that we all might be able to afford a dish with truffles on it this winter. But would we be able to appreciate said dish? A few complications: 1) the taste and aroma of truffles fades quickly, so to buy a good truffle means you have to be able to recognize a fresh truffle; 2) people have varying receptors to white truffles and find different notes of musk, garlic, onion, cream, and sometimes sulphur or chocolate (those are just a few of the 35 known odors); 3) the quality of your experience also depends on your ability to register the molecule “androstenone,” and, no, not everyone is able to do so — meaning that the subtly of truffles is simply lost on many people.