The ‘boom’ of the cultivation of the Spanish black truffle supersedes the French business
Abejar, a municipality in the province of Soria, Molina de Aragón in Guadalajara, Daroca and Sarrión from Teruel, Vic in Barcelona, Vistabella del Maestrazgo in Castellón… These days all these towns have something in common: fairs, gastronomic days, markets … and with the same protagonist, the black truffle (tuber melanosporum) or also recognized as the ‘black diamond’ of the Spanish countryside. In the middle of the season and at the gates of its completion on March 15, Spain has become the main world producerdisplacing France, of this gastronomic treasure.
Last year more than 100 tons of black truffles were produced in the country, 60% of the world total, and 80% of them were exported to the north of the Pyrenees. The Perigord (southwestern France) is no longer the capital of the truffle, which can now be found in the northeast quadrant of the peninsula. Valencia, Castellón, Cuenca, Guadalajara, Soria, Teruel, Zaragoza, Huesca, La Rioja, Navarra, Tarragona, Barcelona, Lleida… In these provinces there is a flourishing business which annually means, according to data from the Secretary of State for Trade, more than 25 million euros in exports.
The six main Spanish truffle exporting provinces are Teruel, Lleida, Huesca, Valencia, Soria and Tarragona and the companies located in them add up tol 95% of the total truffle invoiced abroad. In Spain there are a total of 29 provinces that sell some kind of truffle outside the national borders and there are provinces, apparently with little truffle tradition, such as Álava, Cádiz, Córdoba, Málaga or Cáceres, which are also listed in the official registries of exports of truffles. truffles.
The municipality with the most truffles in the world
Sarrión in Teruel, with barely 1,200 inhabitants, is the municipality that is home to the largest truffle-producing area in the world, with about 3,000 hectares dedicated to its cultivation. But not only Sarrión. Almost the entire Turolense region of Gúdar-Javalambre has calcareous soils suitable for the development of this species of fungus. Further south, around the town of Riopar in Albacete, there are also mycorrhized trees with truffles that enhance the value of land that had ceased to be profitable for its owners, as in the rest of the country.
The Castellón regions of Els Ports and El Maestrat They are also known worldwide for their quality black truffles. Between holm oak groves and the last redoubts of Valencian oak, the towns of this region also hide this black gold of the mountain under their subsoil. Graus and the northern area of Huesca are also known for their truffle quality. In the north, the Álava truffle is also beginning to be known and in Catalonia we must not fail to overlook the great collecting tradition that exists around the “tofona”, as it is called there. Proof of this is the town of Centelles, where it has been held in recent years one of the most important fairs in the area. The municipality of Villaciervos in Soriano is home to one of the largest truffle farms belonging to the Arotz company, as well as Abejar and the surrounding towns that host a large forest area dedicated to truffle farming.
Contrary to what may be popular belief, the wild truffle hardly exists. Almost all of its production occurs in controlled plantations, and in Spain there are currently 15,000 hectares dedicated to the cultivation of truffles and according to the Federation of Truffle Growers Associations, “1,000 more” are added each year, so around 300,000 truffle trees are planted annually, such as holm oak and robello (young holm oak and oak). It is the fever for a flourishing business, since the kilo of black truffle is priced at origin between 300 and 600 euros and in the market it can reach a price of 1,500 or 2,000 euros.
Thus, the hectares are expensive in the truffle areas where the square meter of land comes to be worth six and seven times more than agricultural land ‘normal’ in another area to plant cereal or any other crop. Once the land is acquired, the process is as follows: you have to go to a nursery, buy pots of holm oaks or oaks whose roots have been grafted with truffle fungus spores, and plant them. A process called mycorrhized. Wait eight to ten years, release a dog on the ground and it begins to mark the truffles one after the other. A seemingly simple process, but one that has its risks. Hence this mushroom is so valued. “It’s like playing the lottery,” says José, a truffle farmer from Sarrión (Teruel). “If it works out it’s a great deal.”
The cultivation of black truffles is a business that, according to sources in the sector, generates and between 5,000 and 7,000 jobs in Spain. But why is this black fungus, about the size of a golf ball and which occurs in winter, so appreciated, since the cold concentrates its flavor and aroma? Because it is a gastronomic delight that, with a few grams, enhances the flavor of the most varied culinary recipes, from a simple scrambled egg to the most sophisticated haute cuisine dish. In Spain there is little tradition of consumption and now it is beginning to develop. Hence, between 80%-90% of production is exported. The great consumers of the Spanish truffle are France and Italywhere there are weekly markets where it is a common product and in some the only one.