The largest mushroom found recently in Greece –a white truffle- was unearthed a few weeks ago in the area of Meteora, Thessaly, by the trained dog of Christos Plesiotis, a truffle hunter and a regular collaborator of the Natural History Museum of Meteora and Mushroom Museum. According to a recent announcement made by the museum, this white truffle weighs 510 grams and it is the second largest one found in Europe this year, the first one being a 570-gram truffle located in Italy a few days earlier. As per the statement, “this is a huge discovery given that white truffles usually weigh 50-150 grams”. “Truffles like this one are worth a lot of money and usually end up in luxury restaurants and mansions or they are sold in auctions for charitable purposes and in return for huge amounts of money. In the past, white truffles were sold in auctions for as much as $330,000”.
Nikos Pallas, the Museum director, has stated to the Athens News Agency – Macedonian Press Agency (ANA-MPA): “the fact that this white truffle was found […] makes us all happy and proud […] as one of the largest truffles ever found was unearthed in Greece, and this proves yet again the variety of natural riches our country has […] We sincerely hope that this truffle will end up in an auction, so that money can be raised for a charity”.
White truffles and Grevena
White truffle (Tuber magnatum) is a rare and highly prized gastronomic treasure, also called the kitchen diamond for this reason. It is known as one of the most sought after foods in the world and it grows mostly in Italy, Spain, Croatia and Slovenia. Lately it has been located in many areas in Northern Greece. It has the shape of a potato with crème – beige streaks and the colour of its flesh is darker than that of its skin, with white veins. Habitats for this species are the dark and damp areas that contain transported material from rivers or torrents. The soil pH is alkaline and the truffles are usually located in a depth that exceeds 30 cm.
It is worth noting that more than 3000 types of mushrooms have been identified across the country, 150 types of which are edible. Searching for truffles and unearthing them has been – in recent decades – a growing and popular trend that can be combined with other outdoor activities (hiking, cycling, agritourism etc) on the mountains and forests, or it could be done while hosting special events and workshops on mushroom identification and eating.
Grevena, Macedonia is the area that has been best known in Greece for its mushrooms; this is why thousands of Greek and foreign mushroom-lovers visit Grevena each year. Popular local names, proverbs and legends about mushrooms, methods to locate and collect them, ways to eat them, cooking recipes and preservation methods as well as more than 30 annual related thematic events are all an intrinsic part of the traditions, folk culture, social life and the financial development of the town.
The wider area of Meteora and Kalampaka is rich in truffles. The types of forests, the quality of the ground, the altitude and generally the climate work in favor of the fruition of this unique underground fungus.
Truffle hunters have found in the area great quantities of Tuber aestivum, Tuber uncinatum and smaller quantities of Tuber brumale, borchii and others.
These findings reveal the fact that the area is suitable for truffle hunting growth.
Another plus for the hunting is that there is a Mushroom Museum in the area, one of the few in Europe. This make this experience original, not only in Greece, but in Europe too.
It is a fact that the wider area of Kalampaka has begun to be enshrined in the minds of visitors as the place that one can engage in this experience, almost all year round.
Truffles are a form of mushroom that develops underground in symbiotic association with the roots of trees. Their cultivation was made possible because of development of technology to inoculate host trees with the fungus, under controlled conditions. The use of inoculated trees to cultivate truffles was proven to be successful over the past 20 years in Europe.
There are only 3 truffle species that can be cultivated and have commercial value:
The best climates for Perigord Truffles is the Mediterranean. It provides truffle with warmth, light and free draining soil with a pH of 7.9.
The Burgundy Truffle grows in coller regions in high density. A wide variety of soil types can serve them.
The Bianchetto Truffle likes sandy soil and works in a variety of climates.
To cultivate truffles, inoculated truffle trees are planted in orchards much like those for fruits and nuts, except that the crop appears below ground and is usually harvested with the help of trained dogs or pigs that can smell the truffles. Orchards should be organic and free of fertilizers, so the best truffle can be produced.
Truffles begin to appear several years (4-5 years) after the inoculated seedlings are planted and production can continue for decades. The onset and duration of production depends to some extent on the species of host tree. Yields vary dramatically: some farms produce as much as 150 pounds per acre each year while others produce little.
Because it is not possible to weed-out competing fungus species, the strategy behind truffle cultivation is to provide the truffle fungus with the conditions it needs to prevail in the competition against other fungi. This competitive advantage is given to the truffles in several ways:
- through careful site selection
- planting inoculated seedlings
- creating soil conditions better suited to truffles than other fungi.
Seedlings inoculated while they are still in the nursery give the truffles the advantage of being there first. It is more difficult for other fungi to become established on roots that are already colonized. Sometimes, it is necessary to add lime to raise the soil pH.
Truffle Hunting goes on in September!
Our Truffle Hunting tour activity continues! Visitors of the area of Meteora can participate and live a unique experience in our truffle hunting tours on the 13 or 27 of September. The starting time is set at 9:30 am.
A minimum of ten participants is required in order for the tour can take place. In case you are interested in a private tour, this can be scheduled, after prior contact with the Museum.
Register by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone to +30 2432024959
If you are interested in another date, please contact us.
The Truffle Hunting program includes:
- Truffle Hunting in the forest with specially trained dogs
- Mushroom product tasting in the forest
- Truffle pasta dish cooking and meal accompanied by a glass of local wine
- Visit and guided tour in the Museum