Hunting for truffles in Greece has been a trend for over 15 years now as more and more Greeks seek out the delicious underground mushroom for themselves.
Other than being some of the most delicious, truffles are also among the most expensive products in the international market. They are a rare commodity but can be found in relative abundance in Greece.
In recent years, more and more Greeks are developing a taste for truffles and are willing to pay handsomely for them or even hunt for them.
The price for good-quality truffles in Europe can go as high as 3,000 euros per kilogram (2.2 pounds) while they can be a little higher in the United States.
Searching for and collecting truffles in Greece is basically much like a sport in many ways. Truffle hunting is a great leisure activity, a hobby that can give one a nice extra income.
Tradition of truffle hunting in Italy, France
There are about 80 types of wild truffle around the world but only seven that can be cultivated.
The Italians and French were the first truffle hunters with France producing an astounding 30 tons of truffles every year.
However, some of the best and most sought-after wild truffles around the world come from the region of Umbria in Italy according to Alex Vacca, CEO of Truffles USA; the largest 100 percent Italian truffle importer in the United States.
Specially-trained dogs are used for finding truffles, but pigs, of course, are also great truffle hunters since they have an extremely good sense of smell and naturally root around in the ground in search of their food.
The most common truffles include:
Tuber Aestivum vitt. / Scorsone (black summer truffle)
Tuber aestivum f. uncinatum (black autumn truffle)
Tuber uncinatum (black autumn truffle)
Tuber Magnatum (precious white autumn truffle)
Tuber Melanosporum (precious black winter truffle)
Tuber Brumale (black winter truffle)
Tuber Borchii (white spring truffle)
The best black truffle is considered to come from France, specifically from the southwestern region of Dordogne. The most famous black truffle comes from a specific part of the Périgord region.
Truffle hunting in Greece with specially-trained dogs
Today, Greek truffles are as good as those from Italy, as the similarity of the soil and weather conditions allows for the growth of excellent underground mushrooms.
A variety and large quantity of truffles in Greece can be found in the forested areas and mountains in Grevena, Ioannina, Arta, Xanthi, and Kavala.
The soil and weather conditions in these mountainous areas of northern and northwestern Greece are ideal for the growth of truffles under the earth.
The necessary specially-trained truffle-hunting dog breeds are Labradors, Griffon, Epagneul Breton, English Pointer and the Italian Lagotto breed.
All dogs can be trained to detect truffles, as long as they have a long muzzle. Those with a long nose are known to have a better sense of smell.
Such special breeds of dogs can be bought for 800 euros by those who are serious about setting out to hunt for truffles in Greece. However, if the dogs have already been trained for finding truffles, they can cost from 1,000 to 3,000 euros.
Greek truffles are of high quality and definitely of much higher quality than those produced in Bulgaria, Romania, and China—countries that have entered the trade dynamically as of late.
Traders from these countries have significantly reduced the prices of the product; however, much of it is made in “cloning” cultivation units and have neither the taste nor the aroma of a natural truffle.
Organized annual truffle hunting
The Meteora Museum of Natural History and the Museum of Mushrooms organizes truffle hunting and cooking events every year around the end of May.
A truffle hunter with his trained dogs takes museum visitors to the forests of Meteora to search for the precious fungus hidden in the ground.
After the hunt, a chef then prepares a unique truffle spaghetti in the forest, using the truffles the hunter has collected.
At the end of the meal in the forest, the museum guides will take visitors to the premises to show them the best edible and therapeutic mushrooms while visitors can purchase 70 different varieties of mushrooms and truffle products.