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19 junio 2024

Exploring Aragon’s Black Truffle: A Gastronomic Delight from Spain

Discover the world of Aragon's black truffle, often called the "black diamond" of gastronomy. Learn why this Spanish region is the global leader in truffle production and explore the unique qualities of this culinary gem.

Known as the “black diamond” of the culinary world, there’s no place on Earth that produces and exports more of this delicacy than Aragon, Spain. Aragon boasts optimal soil conditions for cultivating the prized Melanosporum truffle, also known as the black truffle. Specifically, Teruel, within the Aragon region, takes the global lead in both production and exports. As the current season progresses, Teruel is set to account for nearly half of Spain’s truffle exports, according to provisional data from the State Secretariat of Commerce. Following closely are Lérida, contributing nearly a quarter, and Huesca, with approximately 10% of the total.

To put its value into perspective, at the recent international FITRUF fair held in Sarrión, Teruel, the price of this earthly treasure, cherished for its exquisite culinary qualities, surpassed 1,000 euros per kilogram.

Of the over 10,000 hectares dedicated to truffle cultivation in Aragon, a significant portion is concentrated in Teruel. However, suitable soils can also be found in the provinces of Zaragoza and Huesca. These regions, characterized by their limestone-rich, rocky soils, oak forests, and favorable climate, provide an ideal environment for truffle growth. The truffle season typically spans from November to March, though this year’s lack of rainfall may have impacted yields. The final results won’t be known until the end of the season.

In the quest for Teruel’s PGI Black Truffle

These circumstances have prompted the Government of Aragon to take a keen interest in this thriving sector. The latest initiative involves granting a 100,000-euro subsidy, in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, and Food, to the Association of Collectors and Growers of Teruel province (Atruter). The funding aims to promote the creation of the Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) quality seal and advance the tasting panel for this unique product, not only in Spain but globally.

In fact, the training of panel judges recently concluded, with classes that began in November. These sessions provided insights into the ISO regulations related to the PGI seal, covering various aspects, including the objective evaluation criteria applied by experts.

Carmen Urbano, General Director of Promotion and Agri-Food Innovation of Aragon, stated, “The black truffle value chain in Aragon concentrates unparalleled talent. We lead multiple and innovative initiatives, from R&D&I to meeting the demands of the most discerning consumers. The future PGI Black Truffle of Teruel will add the differentiated quality needed to boost the international positioning of our region. With its remarkable gastronomy featuring black truffle, we are confident it will remain an appealing attraction.”

The Provincial Council of Teruel (DPT) also shares a profound interest in truffles. It was this organization that provided 11,000 euros to support the study underpinning the recognition of the fungus. This study includes details of its historical roots in the province, with the earliest references dating back to the 1960s.

As explained by Atruter’s president, Daniel Brito, during the announcement of the steps taken for recognition with the PGI seal, truffle hunters from Catalonia and Huesca ventured into Teruel in the early 1960s. Evidence of the first truffle market, dating back to 1962-1963, can be found in the Casa Ría María bar in Venta del Aire, Albentosa.

More than 600 hectares of social irrigation

Beyond exports, the growth of the truffle market also has implications for other economic activities, including truffle tourism, which serves as an incentive for sustaining rural communities.

Moreover, there are plans for the creation of an interpretation center, Tuber Universum, in the municipality of Sarrión. This project, sponsored by the DPT, is backed by a 610,000-euro grant from the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, and Tourism. The center’s objective is to provide an informative space dedicated to the truffle sector, occupying an area of 115 square meters.

Beyond national borders, initiatives are also underway to promote truffles. In November, seven companies from Aragon participated in an event in Wales to showcase wines, cheeses, saffron, sausages, and, of course, the highly-prized truffle.

In addition to economic sectors, science is actively exploring ways to develop this product. A specific unit at the Center for Food Research and Technology of Aragon (CITA) is dedicated to truffle research. In early November, this institution organized a conference focusing on truffle commercialization and transformation. The event in Zaragoza brought together the Interprofessional Association for Agricultural Development (AIDA) and experts from CITA, including Dr. Pedro Marco, director of the truffle unit, as well as several researchers in the field, to share insights, including preservation methods for a food product known for its exceptional aroma.

Aragon’s black truffle, beyond Teruel

While Teruel, especially in the Gúdar-Javalambre region, takes the lead in truffle production, other regions in Aragon are also making significant strides in this activity. In fact, there is already a brand, Trufa Negra D’Aragón, 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, along with UNIZAR, CITA, and the Binéfar Market, have come together in a Cooperation Group “Black Truffle of Aragon” to enhance its valorization, organization, and promotion.

Fairs like the Vera del Moncayo Fair in Zaragoza or the Graus Fresh Truffle Market in Huesca, Spain’s oldest black truffle market, held every Saturday during the season in Graus, alongside gastronomic experiences in these areas, make black truffle a unique attraction.

Another noteworthy event is the Black Truffle Days of the Daroca Region (Zaragoza). This event, the first technical forum dedicated to ‘tuber melanosporum,’ will celebrate its fifth edition next February in a region that accounts for 30% of the 600 hectares of land dedicated to truffle cultivation in the province.

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