A GOURMET SEASON: PORCINI MUSHROOMS AND TRUFFLES ARE KINGS OF THE FALL12/12/2022
Fall is foodies’ paradise. While the days growing shorter and the air turning colder call for longer, cozy indoor meals, this season is filled with so many sensational products that every food lover is truly spoilt for choice. The Autumn’s harvest in Italy is a real bounty: pumpkins, chestnuts, pomegranates, cabbages, beetroots…the list is almost endless and it strongly influences our eating habits during this time of the year.
Cold pasta salads make room for earthy soups; new ruby wine and fresh extra virgin olive oil become the perfect pairing for casseroles and stews. If we were to crown a specific product as the king of the season, though, we would definitely have an ex aequo: truffle and Porcini mushrooms.
Prized in Italian cuisine and beloved by gourmet chefs, Porcini mushrooms are known all over the world as an invaluable ingredient that can add that rich, recognizable flavor to a variety of dishes. Carefully hand-picked in the woods, they can be sold and consumed fresh or they can be easily dried for later consumption and export.
They are characterized by a round, brown cap supported by a short, whiteish stalk: both parts are edible, even though the tastier one is the cap. With a distinguished nutty flavor and meaty texture, Porcini mushrooms are best enjoyed sautéed, fried or braised, if fresh. The broth produced by soaking dried Porcini in water can be used to replace stock in soups and other recipes; when rehydrated, Porcini can be chopped and used to prepare risotto, pasta sauce and soups.
After their decline in export in 2020, due to logistic difficulties linked to the hardest phase of the pandemic, figures are no soaring again. With 541 shipments in 2022, Italy is still the top exporter of Porcini mushrooms in the world. The same can be said about truffles (13,413 shipments in 2022), another seasonal, gourmet treat. Similarly to mushrooms, truffles commonly grow underground in the wild.
With a fleshy mass and a color that varies from white to dark gray and brown, truffles have such a distinctive flavor that makes them a sought-after product all over the world, despite being one of the most expensive ingredients by weight.
Among the several kinds of truffles produced in Italy, the most precious one is the White Truffle of Alba. Its rarity led to the creation of a strict regulation for its hunting and extraction, a process which has been recently inscribed on the UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. Its quality is the result of the perfect combination between the microclimate of the area around the town of Alba, in Piedmont, and the richness of the local soil.
Truffles are best enjoyed fresh and raw, grated on both cold and hot dishes with a delicate flavor, yet dehydrated truffles can travel a long way and still offer to the palate of Italian food lovers abroad an unforgettable gourmet experience.