Short History of the First Truffle-Producing Trees in Vallicella di Roccafluvione
In the Piceno area, truffles were even considered to be invasive, since they would create competition with traditional agricultural crops. Indeed, it is well known that winter black truffles (Tuber melanosporum Vittadini) create the so-called “burning effect”, i.e. an area on the ground where nothing grows. This effect is due to winter black truffles’ mycelium which initially creates dwarfism of vegetating plants and then their rarefaction. The “burning effect” damaged agricultural productions, so much so that the eradication of symbiotic stumps would become necessary.
Soon, the Angellozzi’s ancestors learned how truffle production works and how to harvest them, initially with the help of pigs that had been properly trained, and later with dogs. The truffles they harvested were used to improve the taste of the family’s meals. Later, they were able to harvest increasing quantities of truffles and started to sell them in the nearby town of Ascoli Piceno.
It was not easy to sell truffles at that time, as only some noble families were willing to buy them for pennies. Actually most of the truffles were exchanged for other basic necessities.
Truffles had always been a supplementary income that the family used as a way of paying back for the food they had been buying at the near small grocery store in Roccafluvione during the year. Gradually, during the period of the Italian economic boom, i.e. after World War II, the trade of truffles became an alternative income.
Emidio and Zenobio Angellozzi: from truffle hunters to truffle growers.
Both initiated to truffle-harvesting by their grandfather Zenobio and helped by their father Giuseppe, brothers Emidio and Zenobio carried on the family tradition since childhood, by practicing the art of “truffle-hunting” in an intensive manner and by obtaining an exclusive income out of truffles.
Together, they kept harvesting truffles relentlessly, day and night, the way the family ancestors would, by benefiting from the results of indirect cultivation for more than three decades. On the other hand, affected or not, truffles have always grown where there was agricultural production, or where it had recently stopped. Unfortunately, truffle-producing systems have a life cycle and, when agricultural fields were abandoned, indirect truffle cultivation that allowed the natural cycle disappeared. So spontaneous production has been decreasing from year to year until almost disappearing.
Those who have learned to observe nature, like Emidio and Zenobio, have been able to perceive its changes from the very beginning. At the end of the 1970s, when tests on truffle cultivation were starting, truffle hunters Emidio and Zenobio started to cultivate winter black truffles in the steep family property. The first truffle-producing trees were planted in 1979 in the large terraces built on hill slopes, which are naturally suitable for spontaneous production of winter black truffles (Tuber melanosporum Vittadini), by alternating downy oak trees (Quercus pubescens) and rockrose shrubs (Cistus incanus). The first truffles were harvested only two years after trees were planted. Plantation trees are still managed by hand as in the past.
The fifth-generation truffle hunters then became truffle growers and obtained remarkable quantities of the best ecotypes that were selected during the years of harvests in natural truffle-producing environments.