The ramblings of this Tuscan Farmer seem to have jumped from late winter to autumn, but I would like to reassure you that spring and summer did make an appearance in Tuscany! Although many locals complained about the validity of these seasons given the amount of rain that fell.
For trainee peasants such as myself, with few resources to irrigate my new vines I will admit to having been not totally unhappy seeing bountiful (and free) water coming down from the skies. Last year’s summer fried my newly planted baby Sangiovese vines; quite enough to make me grateful for rain.
Mushroom lovers and truffle fiends will also be delighted with the effects of this year’s weather in Tuscany; this autumn should see the return of the profusion of fungi that adds so much to the Tuscan table. Truffle hunting friends seem to have been paying special attention to their dogs training; it seems that they think that this autumn is going to be a happy hunting ground for them. As you will see from the photos truffle hunting, like hunting ( to translate the word Caccia properly, although it always sounds strange to English ears) demands a certain style of dress (‘not too scary Mercenary’ as I always term it) and Dogs. In the case of hunting the truffle the dog may not seem the best that Cruft’s could provide. But they are chosen for their nose rather than their looks (a first in Italy?).
The advantage of the dog over the pig (which were used here as well as in France) is that the dog only wants praise and a modest reward; the pig wants the truffle, the whole truffle and nothing but a truffle. Have you ever tried arguing with a hefty scrum half down at ground level? No, nor me, but I think I would lose….and so does the truffle hunter. So dogs it is.
So off goes human and four legged (well trained) friends to seek out black gold. Which in these here hills they actually find, in autumn and early spring (the so called March truffle). And cooking gets a big lift!
Roll on the San Giovanni d’Asso Truffle Fair in November (the second and third weekends) an event you can scent before you arrive. How many other places have a Castle (brick built Sienese) with a Truffle Museum?
This year has been notable also for something else liquid apart from rain: wine, my first wine from a small borrowed vineyard! The 2012 harvest is now bottled and awaiting good homes. I have been delighted (and almost surprised and humbled) at how well it has turned out. But I suppose that it is like cooking; choose (grow) good quality ingredients and then treat them with respect and let them speak for themselves.
So overall a good and beneficent year so far; bread, truffles and wine (the sheep are well but off limits: after all I am only a trainee peasant). La dolce vita doesn’t taste bad!