Part of what makes a delicacy a delicacy is that it's typically scarce and expensive. So some might be inclined to say recent news that a white truffle shortage is sending prices for the coveted fungi through the roof is simply white truffles being white truffles. But apparently, this is no ordinary truffle shortage, with some areas seeing yields 90 percent lower than usual. As a result, prices have nearly doubled in the past year alone.
At the heart of the problem was an atypically hot summer leading to Italy’s driest October in 60 years, according to the Telegraph—a big issue for the moisture-loving tuber that grow in the north of the country. White truffles can be hunted for into November, so all is not necessarily lost, but prices aren’t guaranteed to come down. “We are still hoping for rain in the coming weeks, but at the moment the price is high because of the unfavorable weather conditions,” Coldiretti, Italy’s national agricultural organization, was quoted as saying. “Tuber magnatum (the white truffle) grows in ground that needs to be damp and cool, both in the germination phase and as it develops.”
So for now, prices are sky-high compared to last year. Fortunato Nicotra, executive chef at New York’s Felidia—which has an entire “Truffle Menu” where each dish is served with shaved white truffles—told Bloomberg that, last year, he was able to find white truffles for about $1,300 a pound; this year, a pound is costing him between $2,800 and $3,200. Granted, as with any shortage, it’s all a matter of perspective: Last year’s truffle haul in Italy was huge, causing prices to drop about 30 percent from the previous year. Still, prices this year are still significantly higher than they were in 2015.
As far as what diners will see, a number of restaurants said they would do what they could to keep prices down, whether it meant simply eating the cost or using a bit less of the big ticket ingredient than they would have in previous season. Of course, prices may go up as well. Nicotra said that, at Felidia, that could mean tacking an extra $10 onto the items on his Truffle Menu. Though since those dishes already are priced at no less than $99, what’s an extra ten bucks among truffle enthusiasts?
This story originally appeared on Foodandwine.com.