Carmen Ordiz is the host of G de Gastronomía's gastronomic podcast, which you can listen to on her Spotify channel. A podcast in which we talk about a passion that fascinates many of us: gastronomy.
This fall, we started a collaboration with G de Gastronomia to talk about various topics related to truffles and mushrooms.
In this second chapter, Carmen talks with Gerard Llorens, purchasing manager at Laumont, one of the people responsible for bringing freshly picked truffles as quickly as possible to our homes or restaurants.
Today we will be talking to Gerard Llorens, Purchasing Manager at LAUMONT. He is dedicated to the supply of truffles and mushrooms... it is therefore because of him that we can count on this gastronomic jewel. Welcome, Gerard.
Thank you for the invitation.
Let's get started quickly because I have a lot of questions... how do we make truffles? What is a truffle farmer?
A truffle farmer is a person who devotes himself to collecting truffles with a trained dog, not with a pig, as many people imagine. In the past, truffles were found in the forest, but today this gastronomic jewel comes from the plantations thanks to the important investments that have been made in these crops. Cultures that consist mainly of holm oaks, at the foot of which the dogs find the truffles.
What kind of dog do you need to find truffles?
There is really no breed that is better than the others, but most of the time they are females. It is common to find dogs such as Labradors or Golden Retrievers, but any trained dog can do the trick.
How do you at Laumont ensure that the truffles you sell meet quality standards?
We base the truffle buying system on mutual trust with the truffle farmer. We have a network of more than 400 truffle growers who regularly deliver all their production to us, whether they are more or less "pretty" truffles When the truffles are harvested, we find larger, smaller, rounder, more irregular truffles... at Laumont, we accept them all, and after washing them, we classify them according to their quality. In some cases, the deliveries we receive from truffle farmers can be as high as 90% of truffles suitable for fresh sale, and in other cases only 20%.
And what about truffles that aren't sold fresh?
As I said, because we base our purchasing system on trust with the truffle farmers, we buy everything from them. Truffles that are not sold fresh (depending on the season, up to 50%) are frozen or stored in jars. In fresh produce, we only sell the best truffles so that the end consumer experience is the best and most expected.
What volume of truffles is handled throughout Spain?
It is difficult to give a figure because there are no official studies available. It is true that in the last 10-15 years many new truffle farms have been started in Spain, which means that production volumes are increasing year by year. As an indication, LAUMONT estimates that in 2016-17 it was possible to produce around 50 tonnes of truffles and last year (2021-22) we estimate that Spain produced around 120-130 tonnes.
What is behind this growth?
The investment that has been made in Spain in terms of knowledge, time and investment. Today, Spain could produce about 80% of all Tuber melanosporum black truffles in the world.
Paradoxical, because many people here think that truffles are very elitist, that they are found in very few places... but the truth is that we see them more and more on restaurant menus... Is it as unattainable as people think?
It's true that before, when truffles were not cultivated and you had to go to the mountains to look for them, they were very difficult to find... but now things have changed a lot. As I told you: planting and production, access to truffles is becoming easier.
The truffle is a food of high gastronomy, but it should be kept in mind that it is not a product that is measured in kg, but in grams. A truffle of 30 g or 40 g can be shared between 6 people and can cost you about €50.
With the current trend and development, I have no doubt that more and more people will discover truffles, more recipes and more truffle products.
No doubt. We see more and more truffles in restaurants and in products sold in supermarkets. Made with real truffles. Then there is surely a lot of fraud, a subject that would give rise to many episodes... This is something you also must fight as a specialized company, isn't it?
Yes, indeed. Our mission as a company is to offer top quality truffles to the consumer. We are specialised in truffles and mushrooms, and we try to spread the word on our website and social networks about what is called "truffle culture", so that more and more people discover it and can enjoy it privately.
I am surprised that it is possible to sell such a product online, as you do. It is very difficult to find it fresh and with you it is possible. What makes shipping more complex and what makes buying fresh mushrooms or truffles special?
It is important to understand that, for example, an apple when you pick it from the tree can continue to ripen. When the truffle is out of the ground, its maturation stops. This means that once the truffle is harvested by the truffle farmer, the shelf life begins. That is why it is very important to ensure that this truffle reaches the final consumer quickly. This is our biggest challenge: making sure we offer a fresh product that was harvested 1 or 2 days ago, no more. That's what makes us special. We put a lot of effort into logistics to make sure the truffle our customers receive is totally fresh.
And this is one of the questions that arises when we buy truffles, and they arrive at home. We already know that we should eat them as soon as possible, but when it comes to storing them... how should we store them?
There are many ways, but the one I always recommend for long-term storage is freezing. It should be wrapped in plastic wrap and turned over several times so that it does not lose its aroma, otherwise the whole freezer will smell of truffles... but the truffle will have lost all its flavour.
As soon as you take it out of the freezer, try to laminate it still frozen and put the part you don't need back in the freezer.
Which regions of Spain have the highest truffle production?
Historically, there have been many truffles in regions such as Catalonia, Castellón, Teruel, Zaragoza, Huesca... It is true that with the progress of truffle growing, there are regions such as Ávila, for example, which traditionally did not have truffles, and which now produce many. This is a global trend: more and more regions are producing truffles.
And what are the conditions required to produce truffles?
It's a complicated question, because if we knew that, everybody would produce truffles... everybody would try. But there is one feature common to all places: water. The fact that there is water often ends up ensuring that you can produce truffles.
If we were to sit in front of the computer right now, and we were in the mood for mushrooms or truffles... what would you recommend the listener to put in the basket at laumont.shop?
We always have seasonal products. During the first autumn months, our star product is the fresh mushroom and later, at the end of November or December, the fresh black truffle season begins. And of course, you can buy products all year round as we also have frozen, dehydrated and canned products.
I was lucky enough to live for 5 years in Piedmont, near Alba, and to taste good white truffles... What a delight!
When it's the season, we also sell white truffle, the Tuber Magnatum, online. It is a very special and highly prized truffle because it cannot be cultivated.
Gerard, thank you very much for your buying advice and for your participation in this new episode of a world that fascinates us so much, but which is at the same time so unfamiliar to us, like that of the truffle.
Thank you for this interview.