Monday, January 26

Truffle lovers beware...

As a truffle lover myself, I know that the best ones are made in France. But after reading an article on Chinese competition in the market, I have decided to be more careful. Here is an excerpt from an article published on

"As France's truffle season gets into full swing, local devotees of the luxury fungus are on the lookout for an unwelcome Asian rival to their own 'black diamond'.

Sold for a 20th of the price, the Chinese truffle looks so similar to the prized French delicacy, the Perigrod black truffle or tuber melanosporum, that only experts can tell them apart. For truffle purists, the likeness ends there. "I bought some Chinese truffles Ñ once it was a disaster. A rubbery lump with no smell or taste", scoffed 60-year-old Marine Nardou, picking up her own supply at the truffle market in Sarlat, deep in southwestern Perigrod.

Still, few consumers can spot the different at a glance and in recent years unscrupulous vendors have been found slipping Chinese fungi into baskets of black truffles, where they soak up the pungent smell, or serving them on a plate sprayed with artificial truffle scent.

Ñ Truffles grow in the root systems of host trees, where in Europe specially trained pigs or dgs are used to sniff them out. Over the past century, France's production has collapsed from 1000 tons a year to an average of 25 tons, as the traditional habitat gave way to urban sprawl and rural populations migrated to the cities. 

Meanwhile in China the industry is flourishing, with an annual harvest of 300 tons, of which 15 were exported to France last year. Tuber indicum, the Chinese truffle's botanical name, grows abundantly in the Sichuan region in the foothills of the Himalayas, where it was used as animal feed Ñ local lore holds that it helps sows produce more piglets Ñ until locals alerted to its commercial potential in the 1990s.

The French truffle- growers' federation says there is no need to put up trade barriers Ñ simply for strict labeling rules.

"When they are sold clearly as Chinese truffles, it is not a problem for us. It is an intrnational market, " said Patrick Rejou of the federation's regional branch.

"The problem is if people buy a Chinese truffle thinking it is a Perigrod one Ñ and they they are disappointed."

Growers are calling for the EU to create a special appellation or origin to protect their national treasure Ñ". 

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