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23 julio 2024

Aragon, kingdom of the black truffle Melanosporum

The 'tuber melanosporum' is the delicacy of the soils of Teruel and its figures place the province at the head of exports in Spain and around the world. The producers have already started the process to create a Regulatory Council for the fungus, which will be the first protected quality figure for this type of food in the EU.

They call it the black diamond of gastronomy and there is no one who produces and exports more in the world. Aragon has optimal soils for the cultivation of Melanosporum in the three provinces. We are talking about the black truffle (scientific species ‘Tuber Melanosporum’) and Aragon and specifically Teruel, which leads these two parameters globally and, of course, the state. In fact, and with the still provisional data of the State Secretariat of Commerce, as the season continues, this year the province has almost half of the Spanish exports of the fungus. It is followed by Lérida, which gathers almost a quarter, and Huesca, with about 10%. As a fact of its value, in the recently held international fair FITRUF of Sarrión, Teruel, the kilo of this fruit of the earth, prized for its exquisite culinary qualities, already exceeded 1,000 euros.

Of the more than 10,000 hectares dedicated to truffles in Aragon, most are concentrated in Teruel, but there are also suitable soils in the provinces of Zaragoza and Huesca, whose limestone and stony soils, forests of species such as oak and climate favor the growth of this fungus. Its season, which runs from November to March, approximately, could have been affected this year by the lack of rainfall; however, the final result will not be known until the end of the season.

In search of the PGI Black Truffle of Teruel

Circumstances that have led the Government of Aragon itself to set its sights on this thriving sector. The latest initiative of the autonomous Executive has been to grant a subsidy, from an agreement signed with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, of 100,000 euros to the Association of Collectors and Growers of the province of Teruel (Atruter). The purpose of this money is to promote the creation of the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) quality seal and to promote the tasting panel of this product, unique in Spain and in the world.

In fact, last week the first part of the training of the panel’s judges was completed, classes that began in November and have served to provide information on the ISO regulations related to the PGI seal that, among other issues, covers the tests that must be applied for the experts to make objective evaluations.

“The black truffle value chain in Aragon concentrates unparalleled talent. We lead multiple and innovative initiatives, from R&D&I to the most demanding consumer. The future PGI Black Truffle of Teruel will print the differentiated quality necessary to boost the international positioning of our territory, and the huge gastronomy with black truffle we are sure that it will continue to be an interesting pole of attraction” says Carmen Urbano, General Director of Promotion and Agri-Food Innovation of Aragon, to GoAragón.

The Provincial Council of Teruel (DPT) is also interested in the truffle and it was this organization that financed with 11,000 euros the elaboration of the study that supports the recognition of the fungus, which includes details of its historical roots in the province, noting the first references in the sixties.

In fact, as explained in May by the president of Atruter, Daniel Brito, during the presentation of the step taken for its recognition with the PGI seal, it was Catalan and Huesca truffle hunters who came to Teruel in the early sixties. Already between 1962 and 1963 there is evidence of the first market dedicated to the fungus, in the bar Casa Ría María de la Venta del Aire (Albentosa).

More than 600 hectares of social irrigation

Returning to the regional level, the granting of 100,000 euros to promote the differentiated quality seal was not the only action of the Aragonese government aimed at the truffle. In addition, and through the Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Environment, more than 600 hectares of social irrigation are being promoted in the region of Gúdar-Javalambre, in the municipalities of Sarrión, Albentosa, La Puebla de Valverde and Manzanera, with an investment of more than 15 million euros, co-financed with the truffle growers themselves.

Not only exports, but also tourism and science

The growth of this market not only has implications in the increase of export figures, but is also reflected in other economic activities such as tourism around the truffle, or truffle tourism, which is a further incentive to fix inhabitants in rural areas.

And not only that, the creation of an interpretation center, the Tuber Universum, in the municipality of Sarrión, is also contemplated. The project, promoted by the DPT, has a funding of 610,000 euros from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Tourism and its objective is to have an informative space around the sector, in a space of 115 square meters.

Outside the country’s borders, there have also been actions to promote the truffle. One of them took place in Wales recently, in November, when seven companies from Aragon participated in an event to publicize wines, cheeses, saffron, sausages and, of course, this prized fungus.

Beyond the purely economic sectors, science is looking at how to develop this product, which has a specific unit at the Center for Food Research and Technology of Aragon (CITA). At the beginning of November, this institution organized a conference dedicated to the commercialization and transformation of truffles. It was in Zaragoza where the Interprofessional Association for Agricultural Development (AIDA) met with experts from the center, such as the director of the truffle unit, Dr. Pedro Marco, and several researchers in the sector to share news, for example, on preservation methods for a food that stands out especially for its aroma.

The black truffle in Aragón, beyond Teruel

Although Teruel, and especially the region of Gúdar-Javalambre, is the most fruitful area related to the truffle, other areas of Aragón are also successfully developing this activity. In fact, there is already a brand that seeks to promote the product and its consumption under a letterhead that covers the entire territory.

This is Trufa Negra D’Aragón, a seal promoted by the Association of Truffle Collectors and Growers of Aragon (Huesca), the Association of Young Truffle Growers of Teruel and the Association of Truffle Growers and Black Truffle Collectors of the Zaragoza Region. These groups, together with UNIZAR, CITA and the Binéfar Market, have joined together in a Cooperation Group “Black Truffle of Aragon”, group of Cooperation “Black Truffle of Aragon” for its valorization, organization and promotion.

Fairs such as the Vera del Moncayo Fair in Zaragoza, or the Graus Fresh Truffle Market in Huesca, the oldest black truffle market in Spain, which is held every Saturday during the season in that town, together with gastronomic experiences that take place in those environments, make the black truffle a unique attraction.

Other noteworthy actions are the Black Truffle Days of the Daroca Region (Zaragoza). This event, the first technical forum dedicated to the ‘tuber melanosporum’ will celebrate its fifth edition next February in a region that brings together 30% of the 600 hectares of land dedicated to the fungus in the province.

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