On a little Island in the Baltic sea the ground have been hiding more than historical viking treasures. During the 1980’s summer truffles was found, others may know them as Burgundy truffles. Limestone, high ph levels in the soil, hazel and oak forests and the unique micro climate that this Baltic island has is what gives the truffles optimal growth.
It was not untill the last century that truffle discoveries was recorded in Gotland and three of them as late as 1997. After analyzing the truffles mutation rate it is believed that truffles have existed on Gotland for as long as hazel trees has been growing there, for about 8000 years .
The truffle adventure began when Elsa Bohus-Jensen, a retired biology teacher and fungus expert got a tuber for identification, but since it was very immature, it was difficult to say which fungal species it was. She knew where the tuber was found and visited the yard owner Eva, who had been cleaning her yard of weeds and roots. With the roots she pulled up loads of bulbs. Eva showed Elsa a picture of a bucket filled with round black objects and when Eva was asked what she had done with them, she said she had thrown them on the compost heap.
Once a year during fall The Gotland Truffle Academy arrange a truffle work shop and in Visby they celebrate this with a truffle festival. To this event guests and participants from all over the world come to learn more about truffles, how to grow, how to use, how to find and specially to savour the tubers. This years a truffle farmer had come from New Zealand to lecture about growing truffles.
The work shop is rounded up with pomp and circumstance where the new members are initiated into the academy by the Grand Master of the Academy or as they say The Grand Truffle at a ceremony in Visby Cathedral. The initiation is followed by an exclusive dinner where each dish is prepared by a Gotland restaurant and their chefs. And yes they have used truffles in every dish.
How to find truffles
When going on a truffle hunt you better bring someone to help you sniff them out, the tubers that grow under ground cam be as deep as half a meter below the surface. Originally pigs were used for this purpose, but they ate more than what the hunter could retrieve. To day you can teach most dogs to sniff out truffles. The traits the dogs need to possess are that they have a good nose and love to dig. The moste popular dogs for this purpose is a Lagotto Romagnolo. But as mentioned you can use other types of dogs and I heard a funny story from Gotland about a truffle enthusiast who’s trusty companion was a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. The dog could sniff out the truffles but did not like to dig, she would place her paw on top of the spot and indicate to her owner that she could start digging on the spot she has marked.
On the picture above and below you can see Bruno the Lagotto Romagnolo who came on the truffle hunt with us.
“Truffles ar round fungus things that grow underground and does not taste anything” Martine 10 years old.
The truffles itself does not taste anything, the tubers aroma is what they are sought after, truffles are known to enhance your dishes, grate or thinly slice some on top.
Parmesan and truffle fries
3 large potatoes (about 2 ½ pounds)
1 tablespoon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2-4 tablespoons truffle oil (see note above)
¼ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Oil for frying
- Pre heat oven to 200 C
- Leave the skin on the potatoes and cut them into strips.
- Put the potatoe strips in a bowl with ice-cold water to draw out the starch of the potatoes. The water will get a little murky, repeat this process a few times until the water gets clear.
- Drain and dry off the potatoes
- Fry them in oil
- When finished remove from oil and toss them in truffle oil
- Put the fries on a baking tray and bake them in the pre heated oven for a few minutes
- Take them out of the oven, put them on a serving plate and drizzle with grated parmesan and truffles