“Vai Vai” shouted Francesco, the Italian Truffle hunter to Two Socks, his gorgeous dog, who bounded through the woodland, sniffing the ground and wagging his tail excitedly, running from stretch to stretch examining every inch.
Within a few minutes he wagged his tail in a specific manner which indicated to Francesco that he had found a diamond in the Tuscany rough – a black truffle! Watching the pair of them and their understanding of each other was simply amazing.
Francesco dug up the truffle carefully with a special tool (pictured below) and then rewarded Two Socks with some dog biscuits for finding it.
Truffles, which are also known as tuber magnatum pico, are usually hunted by specially highly trained dogs. Pigs used to be used for truffle hunting due to their excellent ability to sniff out truffles but they also ended up eating them too rendering it a wasted exercise for some truffle hunters and so now dogs are favoured instead.
Tuscany is a truffle hunting paradise as the rolling hills are abundant with them scattered and hidden amongst the roots of certain trees, such as oak and hazelnut. They are pricey to buy and difficult to find but they have the ability to transform a dish with their distinctive strong flavours.
I had the most amazing pasta dishes with truffle shavings or truffle oil whilst in Tuscany. I especially love the aroma and have actually brought back some truffle paste and oil with me.
The type of truffles that Two Socks found during our time truffle hunting were black truffles, which are the least expensive type of truffle. They smelt earthy and not the way I imagined them to at first.
Francesco explained that some truffles last only 10 days and others less or more and since he has been truffle hunting for a long time he is able to tell by examining the truffle what each one’s longevity is like. He stores them wrapped in kitchen towels and in a plastic container in his fridge until he finds a seller.
In terms of selling the truffles, Francesco usually goes via a middle man rather than selling directly. The prices vary upon demand and fluctuate vastly.
The white truffles are much more harder to find and seasonal and thus sell for a heftier price than the black truffles. These are favoured by chefs as they are more exclusive and precious, like a rare commodity, due to the fact that they are only available a few months each year.
He advised us that the best way to keep truffles going for longer is to use them to flavour oils or make truffle butter, which also makes it easier to cook with. We actually got to try some on bread which was scrumptious!
It was a brilliant experience and one that I thoroughly enjoyed and would recommend in a heartbeat if you are searching for things to do in Tuscany. Our guide Jessica was excellent too.
I am an animal lover and so spending time with Two Socks was a mega bonus for me!
The Truffle Hunting experience was one segment of a full day tour with Grape Tours and I can’t recommend them enough. They had so many different tours to cater for everyone and as this one was a combination of food and travel it was absolutely up my street!