Truffle News

Predicting the Truffle Season

by 02/05/2022

It is the end of April and the first ripe black summer truffles of the year have started to pop up here in the south of Europe.

Hunters have already been looking at weather patterns over the previous 4 months to calculate what kind of yield we might expect. However more than the weather, it is these first truffles that will give us the clearest indication of how the season will go.

Before we make our predictions, I should say that there isn’t a good deal of science about truffles in the wild, why do they grow here and not there? How come they can grow in abundance one year and the next there is nothing ? There is still such a great deal that we don’t understand about this unique fungi and this lack of concrete information gives rise to a stream of homespun theories and old wives’ tales.

Some of these ideas are baseless and involve full moons and lucky rituals. Others stand up better to scrutiny and are the result of the combined experience of generations of hunters’ trying to make sense of the unpredictable behaviour of truffles.

Unearthing truffles day in day out, season after season helps you gain an understanding of when factors are in place for a good year or for disappointment. Hunters love to talk about truffles, and they will talk about black truffles. A lot. With white truffles there is much more secrecy and reliable information is harder to come by. The black truffle is more widespread hence not so valuable and information about it tends to be more freely shared.

Right now, hunters are talking together, sharing notes. Above all they are speculating on the coming season – is it going to be a good one? For professional hunters, these discussions have a decidedly more frantic air this year. Those who try to make their living from truffles are looking for signs more anxiously than usually – we have had four really bad seasons back to back. Another poor season will be disastrous and a lot of families may have to rethink their whole future. There are tremendous highs and lows involved in truffling and you have to be prepared financially and psychologically for lean times. All the same, I can’t remember a more stressful time.

If you hunt professionally, you want to have some kind of idea about what awaits you in the coming months. A bad season will have financial consequences and you need to be able to anticipate them. In the worst case scenario you may have to sell a dog to survive. If you can, you might gamble and move to a different area and spend the season hunting where conditions are more favourable. Many trufflers have a nomadic lifestyle and will partner up with hunters from different regions. So these predictions are taken seriously, decisions will be taken after considering them. Unfortunately, here comes the disclaimer, they are only as reliable as any prediction about the highly unpredictable truffle can be.

What makes a good truffle season? What are the signs which point to a decent year where good quality truffles are available at a reasonable price?

The first indicator is the weather 3 to 4 months before the season starts. We have been monitoring rainfall since February. For a good summer harvest in May, June and July we need to have had decent rainfall throughout the months of February, March and April. These are the months when the truffles are secretly forming underground. To help these truffles develop needs consistent rain over the three month period. Torrential rain and storms are not great – this can wash away the top layers of soil and disturb the growth.

So, weather patterns are key, however truffles are mysterious creatures and are affected by other factors besides rain. We will need to wait till the first truffles appear to make more precise forecasts on the season to come.

These truffles will give you a fairly accurate idea of what the yield will be like. If the quality of those early truffles is poor then the season will more than likely be a bad one. Quality markers

  1. Weight-size ratio. Large truffles are a positive indicator but size alone is not sufficient. The truffles should feel heavy and compact. For instance, a truffle the size of a tennis ball should weigh at least 110 grams whereas in a bad season the same size truffle would be around 20 grams lighter.
  2. This size/weight ratio is reflected in the flesh. In a good year the truffle will be meaty. A poor quality truffle is dry and woody.
  3. In a fruitful year, you will notice that the early truffles are shiny. Dull-coloured, browner truffles are usually an indicator of a miserable hunting season.
  4. Finally, when there are a quantity of truffles early on in the season, it usually a sign that conditions have been just right. In a year when there are abundant truffles, they are invariably good quality. Finding a cluster or family of truffles growing in the same hole is a very positive sign.

Looking at the truffles we have found so far, I am going to stick my neck out and say that this year will be a good one for the summer black truffle. I might be wrong because experience teaches hunters that are other variables at play and that truffles have a mind of their own. I hope I am right though, as we haven’t had a good season since 2020 and this season is now a matter of survival. Hunters and dogs will be working hard for the next 3 months hoping that the truffle gods will be on our side. Please let it be a good one!

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