It may not feel like it to everyone but this has been a notably dry autumn in France and Italy. The Indian summer may have helped ripen grapes at the last minute but it has brought problems for those whose livelihood depends on unearthing Europe's crop of truffles every autumn.
French truffles are in such short supply that prices have already risen to about £2,000 a kilo in London but here's where the home-grown product, and purple pages, come in useful. Longstanding purple pagers may remember Roger Jones's account of a local supply of English truffles towards the end of this thread. Mr Lander became interested in this and wrote about it in England's most valuable fungi. This year, in his capacity as consultant to Fortnum & Mason as they spruce themselves up, he put the buyers in their new basement food market in touch with the truffles' mysterious source.
As a result, Londoners wanting to add autumnal headiness to their mushrooms or scrambled eggs can buy truffles of varying sizes from F&M at a mere £500 a kilo – which means you can buy a very handsomely sized one for £30. I can vouch for the fact that although their texture is distinctly woodier than Alba's finest, they are in no way less fragrant.
(On no account follow the advice of one Sunday Times sub editor however and try to make chocolates from them.)