I read an interesting news about the truffle industry in China and remind me when I was there on 2007, and it seems things have not changed pretty much. Tuber indicum, is just one of the five chinese species of truffle that are coming into the european markets. Others are T. himalayense, T. pseudoexcavatum, T. pseudohimalayense, T. Sinense.
Tuber indicum is the most tricky to distinguish from our melanosporum, fruit bodies are almost identical and their spores are eliptic and with small thorns as melanosporum does (although in indicum they have a hook end). On the other hand, the spores of the other chinese truffles present a honeycomb lattice ornamentation and so are easily detected at microscope.
When we prepare the truffle inocula for our nursery, look under the microscope every single truffle we use and my experience tells me it’s really difficult to distinguish a Tuber indicum when it comes mixed into the lot with melano! And we’ve looked at thousands of truffles! Therefore we must ensure the origin of the lot purchased. Or go trough the new DNA tests to avoid later contaminations.
The French INRA stated in 1999 that they used by error chinese truffles for the production of infected trees with melanosporum and this means that there are now chinese truffle plantations in Europe with unknown consequences. It is a serious problem in our industry. In the USA has been also detect in a truffle orchard. To my knowledge there has not been found in Spain neither in plantations nor in the wild. But maybe that’s not important when you consider that you are importing tons of these truffles to Europe and that we eat them. China exported 800 Tons of chinese truffles in 2006 and 709 Tons last year.
A few years ago Tuber indicum came to Europe inmature (not as much as you see in the picture), with almost no aroma (they do not use dogs in its gather), but now comes scented to 30 € / kg set in the Barcelona airport . Truffle intermediaries and restaurants prefers cheaper truffles and chinese truffle for the first time has begun to seriously affect the market for other lower-quality natural truffles, like Tuber brumale, because these truffle brokers make more margin selling Chinese truffles and because of that most of brumale has been canned, whereas other years was sold fresh. In conclusion, the brokers do not want to pay the price collectors want and what happened is that it has stopped collecting much of the brumale. If this continues, the same will happen with summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) and threatening traditional harvesting and marketing in our country.
All the best,