For decades, enthusiasts have hoped truffles can follow wines path to success in the state. Charlotte Simmonds joins a search for the delicacy
Staci OToole is lying face down in the dirt. I can smell it! she cries, nose to the roots of a hazelnut tree.
A funky, fungal odor emanates from a shallow hole in the ground of this Sonoma Valley orchard. It hints at a hidden treasure many years in the making: a French Prigord truffle, grown right here in California.
Commonly known as black truffles or even black diamonds, Prigords are one of the worlds most sought-after delicacies, selling for $800 or more per pound. Revered for lending an intoxicating flavor to everything from tagliatelle to sushi, they remain widely adored and shrouded in mystery.
With wild truffles increasingly scarce, scenes of affable farmers trawling the woods with a pot-bellied pig are becoming a rare sight. Most black truffles these days come from farms, where they are hunted by specially trained dogs. Cultivation secrets in this lucrative industry have traditionally been closely guarded, with the market dominated by France, Italy and Spain. But in recent years New World upstarts have been gaining ground: Australia is expected to produce 15 metric tons this year, while New Zealand, South Africa and Chile all have burgeoning industries.
For decades many have pinned their hopes on the Mediterranean climate, robust wine industry and thriving food scene of California as the worlds next truffle hotspot. Now, it appears, such hopes are paying off.
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