Despite millions of dollars of investment, many American truffle orchards have never produced any truffles at all, and only a handful produce more than a few pounds. But now, as Rowan Jacobsen explains in FERN’s latest story, published with Smithsonian Magazine, an unlikely trio has seemingly broken the nation’s “truffle curse” with an orderly orchard beneath loblolly pines in North Carolina’s Piedmont region.
On a frosty February morning, “there are an estimated 200 pounds of truffles in this plot, making it one of the most productive truffle orchards the world has ever seen,” writes Jacobsen. “Nancy Rosborough—the self-described ‘ghetto kid’ from Washington, D.C., whose wobbly start-up, Mycorrhiza Biotech, might just be saved by the golf-ball-size tubers erupting out of the red dirt—looks around, trying to contain her emotions. After 15 years of struggling to bring her truffle-farming vision to life, she is staring at two acres of validation.”
“It’s the bianchetto, or ‘whitish’ truffle, a different species from the famed white truffle of Italy and the black winter truffle of France (a.k.a. the Perigord, for the region that first made it famous). If the black winter is the Rolls-Royce of truffles, all silky luxury, and the white is the Lamborghini, a sexy rush, the bianchetto is more like the BMW—it doesn’t deliver the erotic crescendo of the white, but it still possesses most of the pheromonal zip at a much lower price. While the black winter sells for about $800 a pound, and the white goes for $3,000, the bianchetto comes in closer to $500.
“But unlike the white, which has resisted every effort at cultivation, and the black winter, which is cultivated all over the world but struggles mightily in the States, the bianchetto seems to love the Southeast—at least judging by this plot.”