Usually when thinking of truffles, images from picturesque northern Italy, from small towns in Piemonte, come to mind. This is certainly because the name for Tuber Magnatum Pico is Alba truffle, which is named after the Italian town and municipality in the Italian region of Piedmont, in the province of Cuneo. Furthermore, when we think of truffles, we think directly of the well-known regions of France. The Provence for example, where about 80% of French truffles are found. But are these really the only countries that have an abundance of these valuable natural resources?
Thunderstorms, fierce forest fires and extreme droughts characterize the year 2022 in Europe. For the environment, as well as for us humans, this is a great challenge. A closer look into the effects of climate change shows how certain individuals are affected by this unprecedented weather conditions. Truffle hunters in Italy are having a difficult year due to these extremes - their harvest will not be very prosperous, as the truffle is delicate and needs certain climatic conditions to grow. The Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), the Bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii) and the Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum) need a slightly alkaline and porous soil with a very high moisture content. The ideal soil for truffle cultivation has a pH-value between 7.6 and 7.9.
Will countries from southeastern Europe offer an alternative to the Italian and French truffles? Assuming the well-known regions in Italy and France cannot harvest enough truffles to meet the demand. Fortunately, there are several countries around the world, including in Europe, that are not necessarily known for their truffles but could offer a lot of truffles. These countries are not usually known for their truffles as they are not often used in their local cuisine, as is the case in Bulgaria for example. But this does not mean that their truffles are of inferior quality!
The ecosystems and conditions for the truffle are ideal in some South-Eastern European countries. In the mid-western part of the Balkan Peninsula, the soils are neutral to slightly alkaline and with many possible host trees. Truffles are consequently more abundant in these regions. Lowland and hilly regions in the mid-western part of the Balkan Peninsula generally harbor truffles of varying quality and quantity. The most common truffle species in this region is the Tuber Rufum Pico.
For several years now, the peninsula of Istria in Croatia has garnered more and more attention. The reason being that it also grows and yields top quality white truffles, more precisely the Tuber Magnatum Pico. This truffle grows in the forested inland areas, no higher than 700 meters above sea level, and is collected with the help of truffle hunting dogs and pigs. Every autumn the traditional Istrian Truffle Days take place, during which truffle auctions, truffle hunts, tastings and sales take place.
Excellent white truffles grow in certain regions of Romania and Bulgaria, mainly in the forested regions. The truffles are harvested between September and December each year and are partially used for local culinary purposes, however they are mainly exported to other countries in Europe, most notably to Italy, Germany, Spain, Hungary and Austria.
So far 13 different species of truffles have been discovered in the entire territory of Serbia and Bosnia, including white truffle. Extensive research on truffles in Bosnia and Serbia have been carried out since the last decade. The results of this research show that these white truffles are mostly found along the rivers Sava and Mlava.
Conclusively the South-Eastern European countries offer a high-quality alternative to the Italian and French truffles. This is due to the increasing difficulty for Italy and France, to keep up with the demand, which is mostly caused by global warming and decreasing rainfall.