As the truffle season gets into full swing in France, local devotees of the luxury fungus are on the lookout for an unwelcome Chinese rival to their own ‘black diamond.’
Sold for one-twentieth of the price, the Chinese truffle looks so similar to the prized French delicacy, tuber melanosporum, that only experts can tell them apart.
In recent years, unscrupulous vendors have been found slipping Chinese fungi into baskets of black truffles - where they soak up the pungent smell - or serving them on a plate sprayed with artificial truffle scent.
In the Perigord region - where truffles can fetch up to 1,000 Euros (£926 / $1,290 dollars) a kilogramme - a dozen markets have brought in tough new controls to stop producers bulking up their harvest with the cut-price Chinese fungus.
For some truffle purists, however, there’s no mistaking the real thing. “I bought some Chinese truffles once - it was a disaster,” said Martine Nardou, picking up her own supply at the truffle market in Sarlat, deep in south-western Perigord. “It was a rubbery lump with no smell or taste.”
by Andy Moreton