Is £2,000 a pound a little too much? How about £7,000 a pound? Have your eyes stopped watering yet?
As you may have guessed, I’m not pricing up any old mushrooms; these are market rates for Alba white truffles, generally considered by those who know to be the best in the world. I’m not a huge fungus fan, to be honest, so I can’t quite work out what makes them so special – but it’s an awful lot of money to pay for a mushroom.
There are a few different varieties of truffle available, some considerably more expensive than others but all pricier than your average shiitake. White truffles are only found in Piedmont and are considered the most valuable and has reached record breaking levels; the highest price for a single white truffle is £165,000 for a 1.5kg specimen (3.3lbs if you’re old fashioned like me) – so that equates to around £50,000 a pound. It’s a lot of money for something that’s barely going to last a fortnight.
There is also the black Perigord truffle which is said to be the next most valuable species and is as aromatic and flavourful as its paler cousin. It has also recently been infused with vodka to create a truffle vodka, used in cocktails and cooking for a distinctive flavour. Unfortunately, I don’t have any prices for black truffles, but I’d say about two thirds of that of a white truffle would be a decent guess.
There are also such things as the Oregon white truffle, a kind of commercial “poor man’s” truffle, grown in the Pacific North West of the United States. It is not the same fungus as that of an Alba white truffle and prices reflect this, with the truffles selling for around £75 a pound. Still a lot, but nowhere near as expensive as the European varieties.
The thing that dazzles me is that such large sums of money are spent on something you can’t keep. Unlike wine, which you could lay down for a few years, or artworks, which never go off, truffles have a very distinct life span. I am told that they can be preserved, but surely that would affect their flavour, and thereby reduce their value? I’m not sure. I just think it is another example of money speaking louder than good sense.