Thursday, October 12, 2006

Hazlenuts, grapes, mushrooms & truffles

The harvesting of hazelnuts & grapes is drawing to a close now & the mushroom & truffle season has begun.

We are living on a hazlenut farm at the moment so have spent several weeks now watching (and listening) to them hoovering up their hazelnuts from under the trees and sorting them before using them in the production of their fantastic cakes and biscuits. The local area has been buzzing with the hazlenut harvest and almost every driveway has been a sea of drying hazelnuts, a site that has to be seen to be believed.
Further down the valley and across the Langhe region the grape harvest has also been taking place over the last few weeks, and in some places still is. The roads have been packed with tractors, their trailers groaning under the weight of the grape harvest, and the local wine production plants have been working into the night, the air heavy with the smell of wine. We are looking forward to sampling some of this years harvest as soon as it appears on the shelves!

As the hazlenut & grape harvests come to an end we are starting to see the fantastic array of mushrooms appearing on the shelves and also this month the truffle festival takes place in Alba celebrating the famous ‘tartufo bianco’ (white Alba truffle). Markets and events take place in Alba from the end of September until mid November and the celebrations culminate in a truffle auction where, last year, a truffle weighing 1.2kg was sold for a staggering €95,000.

At the moment cars can be found parked up at the side of roads all over the region while the occupants are out hunting in the woods for mushrooms (and the odd elusive truffle), although this is an activity we have not yet been brave enough to try. We are told the Farmacia (chemist) will identify mushrooms for you but from the books we have looked in the ones classed as ‘deadly’ and ‘delicious’ look almost identical! We have found a few mushrooms while out on walks and also on the land outside our house but who knows which category these fall into!


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