But Franklin Garland knew. He's spent almost 30 years experimenting in Orange County with the trees and the land and the chemistry needed to produce them, and has concluded that North Carolina could be to truffles what Napa is to wine. And he's long believed it was the perfect replacement for tobacco--a high-priced crop that could support a family on just a few acres of land. Now he has the support of the people dispensing money from the tobacco settlement, and some tobacco farmers are going to find out if a French fungus might, indeed, pay off.
In the meantime, it's not too hard (or even terribly expensive) to get a taste of what all the fuss is about. Truffles have just gone out of season, but there's truffle oil for sale in fancy food shops that can give us a taste. Or, when the black buttons return, we can buy a small one, scramble some eggs or mash some potatoes, pick out a bottle of wine, and see how powerful they really are.
Getting the most out of truffles
If North Carolina is to be the next great truffle region of the world, we as good citizens should support this burgeoning industry and eat more truffles. Eggs, rice and potatoes are good ways to start.
By Besha Rodell
Wines to truffle by
If you're going to splurge on truffles, by all means eat it with a wine to match. Wines from vineyards near where they grow are laden with flavors that mirror the truffles' characteristics.
By Arturo Ciompi
Our bi-annual modest guide to eating well in the Triangle