How Much Are Truffles?
It seems like every year we hear news of a humongous truffle unearthed somewhere in France or Italy, weighing in a record, and selling at exorbitant prices. Most of the time, however, truffles, though expensive, come in at moderate, affordable weights. This being said, this particular mushroom seems to carry an inordinately large price tag – which begs the question: how much are truffles? And why are they so expensive? Let’s dig in deeper into the world of the mysterious, luxurious fresh truffle.
First, while truffles in general fetch a hefty price, there are several varieties of truffles and they come in at vastly different prices. There are more common truffles that are less expensive, like summer truffles or the Burgundy truffle, which are also less intense in flavor and aroma. The most expensive variety is by far the white truffle, also known as the Alba truffle from Italy. At the basis of the pricing lies its rarity. Unlike most other crops, truffles are notoriously hard to cultivate, although nowadays several countries like Australia, Chile and Argentina have managed to grow black melanosporum truffles quite successfully. The white truffle however remains a wild product, and because it grows under trees, they’re extremely hard to find. Truffle hunters roam the countryside in Italy with their trusty truffle hunting dogs, but while there are some spots that are yield a nice bounty, usually it takes thousands of these men and their dogs, which also makes truffles a labor-intensive crop. While white truffles come only from Italy, black truffles are usually found all around Europe but especially in France and Italy.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg of why truffles are expensive and cost so much. The other aspect to consider is that truffles start to lose their potency as soon as they’re excavated, so they need to reach their destination as soon as possible. This means packing and overnight shipping, specialty packaging, all which adds to the price tag.
Truffles are priced not only by weight, but also by quality. So not all truffles, even if they weight the same, will cost the same. How much will they vary? By a lot, actually. The rounder, more flawless the truffle, the more it will cost. How much are truffles depends also on their aroma and intensity. Smaller truffles are less desirable for chefs and restaurants who like to have showcase pieces to shave table-side. You can also buy truffle pieces at a great value, for other types of dishes.
Availability comes into play as well and seasonality – truffles are only available for a scant few months, and depending on the weather, supply might be sparse. So how much are truffles depend also on how the truffle harvest went that year. And finally, it’s all about supply and demand. At the beginning of the season, when truffles are not so abundant, the price will be higher than in the height of truffle season, when truffles are a plenty.