The gastronomy of the region of Els Ports is rich in variety: we can find many spoon options, such as soups, porridges, pots…; all kinds of meat from extensive livestock farming; vegetables from the vegetable garden; countless tinned foods; mushrooms; cheeses… All these foods, prepared in various ways, form the basis of Els Ports culinary culture, which reaches the top of the pyramid with an exclusive product that is only found in a few places in the world: the truffle.
In Els Ports, this fungus abounds in its darker variant, known as Tuber Melanosporum, during the first months of the year, accompanying all kinds of dishes, meats, cheeses and even desserts.
The truffle can be harvested from November until late February. From January to March it becomes the star of the most important gastronomic days held in the region, during which many restaurants offer menus featuring this black diamond, renowned chefs hold showcookings, product tastings are held to highlight the use of this ingredient and even the gastro-literary festival “Morella black as truffle” is held, which combines the literary genre of the crime novel with tastings of truffle bites and wine tastings. During these weeks, the aroma and taste of truffles invade the streets and restaurants of the villages in the region.
But Tuber Melanosporum is not the only variety that can be found in Els Ports! During the hottest months comes the Tuber Aestivium, the summer truffle which, despite not being as highly valued as its black counterpart, also brings a notable aroma and a pleasant flavour to all the dishes where it is added.
There are more and more truffle oak plantations to be found in Els Ports, due to the characteristics of the land and climate that are suitable for this type of cultivation. The truffles grow underground near the roots of these trees, but without touching them, united by an imperceptible mycelium. The relationship between tree and truffle is a symbiosis, they are associated with each other. The fungus is found at a depth of about 20 centimetres: it is a product so deeply rooted in the earth that, to extract it, requires the good sense of smell of a specially trained dog. Without them, it is impossible to find the truffle at its optimum moment of ripeness.
Collecting truffles is a fun experience for the whole family, which can be enjoyed in Els Ports thanks to certain agro-tourism companies specialising in this crop. But be careful! If you’re not quick, your canine companion might eat it before you get there! When the dogs detect the unmistakable aroma of the truffle, they mark the place where it is, start digging with their paws and then the forager is in charge of making the final extraction before the dog gets to eat it.
Truffles do not only arouse the sense of smell of dogs. Wild boars are the main enemies of truffle hunters. In fact, it is very common to see the truffle fields already dug by the wild boars that have arrived before.
Find the treasure on your plate
A little truffle is enough to flavour and give a very special touch to any dish. It is common to find it in slices or grated on top of the dish, to give flavour and aroma to all kinds of recipes. It is usually added at the last moment, as it requires practically no cooking.
It is one of the most sought-after foods in the world, which is why it is also known as black gold. Its aroma and taste are unique and arouse great passions in anyone who tastes it. In addition to being an exquisite mushroom, the truffle provides a large number of properties and health benefits: it is good for the skin, it is an antioxidant and it favours the circulatory system, among others.
Since the 1960s, the Els Ports truffle has been highly appreciated throughout Spain and especially in France, where a large part of the production goes. Depending on the year and quality, it can fetch more than 500 euros per kilo. In the villages of the region, and when it is in season, there are regular markets in Morella and Vilafranca. Truffles grow in natural holm oak groves, but more and more fields are being planted with holm oaks mycorrhizated with truffles. In this way, wild production is complemented by crops.
For Els Ports, this fungus is a seasonal and local product and, due to the good characteristics of the land where it is grown, of extraordinary quality. Together with Teruel and Soria, Els Ports is one of the areas with the best characteristics for truffle production. The calcareous soil makes it a privileged place for its development. The truffle is added to the local gastronomy, based on the tradition of the fields, crops, livestock… selecting an excellent raw material and a cuisine that has been passed down from generation to generation, maintaining the seal of maximum quality.