The Dolo and Dragone Valleys Truffle

The treasure hidden in the woods

The territory of the Dolo and Dragone Valleys stretches between the mountain municipalities of Frassinoro, Montefiorino and Palagano and safekeeps, beneath the soil of its woods, a prized delicacy: truffle. One of the specimens that grow wild in these areas is the Tuber Magnatum Pico, also known as the white truffle king of the Modenese Apennines. Amidst ophiolitic reliefs and imposing boulders that bear witness to a millennial heritage, you can also find truffle varieties such as the uncinato or black truffle of Fragno Scorzone, the bianchetto or marzuolo and the smooth black truffle.

Characteristics of truffles

The truffle of the Dolo and Dragone Valleys is particularly prized for its flavour and aroma, and it is considered a high-quality local product. It is a fungus that lives underground, shaped like a tuber and consisting of a fleshy mass called gleba, covered by a sort of bark called peridium.

The truffle consists of a high percentage of water and mineral salts absorbed from the soil through the roots of the tree with which it lives in symbiosis. It grows and develops near poplars, hazels, oaks and willows, and it is precisely its position that determines its colouring, flavour and scent characteristics. For example, truffles growing near oak trees have a more intense aroma, while those that grow near linden trees are typically lighter and more aromatic. The shape, on the other hand, depends on the type of soil: if it is soft, the truffle will be smoother; if it is compact, it will become gnarled and lumpy due to the difficulty of making room for itself. It generally reaches maturity in the autumn, but there are also spring, summer and winter species.

Truffle History and Culture

The truffle is a fruit of the earth known since ancient times. We can trace the first evidence of its presence in the diet of the Sumerian people and at the time of the patriarch Jacob around 1700 – 1600 BC. Pliny’s opinion as a naturalist was that the truffle ‘is among those things that grow but cannot be sown‘.

It is also known that Pope Gregory IV made extensive use of the truffle to compensate for the energy expended in facing the Saracens. St Ambrose then thanked the bishop of Como, San Felice, for the goodness of the truffles he received.

In the 18th century, truffle hunting was a court pastime that foreign guests and ambassadors were invited to attend. This could be where the custom of using an elegant animal such as a dog for the hunt originated.

Truffle protection mark and use in cooking 

The collective protection brand Tradizioni e sapori di Modena – Tartufo Valli Dolo e Dragone was created by the Chamber of Commerce of Modena in cooperation with the GAL, the Mountain Community of the Modena West Apennines and the municipalities of Frassinoro, Montefiorino, Palagano and Prignano. The mark requires compliance with a specification that defines the production area, the species harvested and the characteristics of the tuber.

While for botanical science the differences between white and black truffles are minimal, in cooking there is a clear distinction between the two species according to an essential principle: the black truffle should be eaten in quantity, the white truffle is in practice a flavouring agent that conveys above all its aroma to food and should therefore be used in minimal doses. The finest truffles can be eaten raw, cut with a truffle-cutter and served directly on ready-to-eat food, e.g. on top of a delicious plate of tagliatelle.

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