In Greece, it is only in the last 9 years that a – relatively – systematic research and recording of hypogeous fungi has been in progress, since nearly all finds up to 2007 were only accidentally found during forays for terrestrial mushrooms. In particular, as regards Tubers – Truffles, very few reports and even less evidence seemed to speak for the fact that they indeed do grow in our country.
10 species of hypogeous fungi are included in Greek bibliography of finds from 1854 to 1992 by researchers, agronomists or mycologists X. von Landerer, P. Gennadios, R. Maire, D. Keltemlidis, M. Pantidou and S. Diamantis. Those are: Geastrum triplex, Ηysterangium marchii, Rhizopogon aestivus, Rhizopogon luteolus, Rhizopogon roseolus, Sarcoscphaera coronaria, Terfezia arenaria, Terfezia fanfani, Tuber aestivum και Tuber cibarium.
The earliest recording in our country was that of Tuber cibarium in 1854 by Bavarian Xavier Landerer, who lived in Greece from 1833 until 1885 as king Otto’s personal pharmacist. Later recordings are those in “Fungi hellenici” by French mycologist René Maire (1878-1949) and botany professor John Politis (1940 edition), where there are recorded reports by botanist and agriculturalist Panagiotis Gennadios (1848-1917) of samples that he had found in Eleia and Achaia. P. Gennadios was a member of the French “Societé Entomologique de France” and was in contact with Europe’s scientific circles. As it seems, Gennadios was collaborating on mushroom identification with French mycologist Chatin, who worked on hypogeous fungi in particular. Actually, Chatin named two mushrooms (Agaricus gennadii (Chatin & Boud.) P.D. Orton and Loculotuber gennadii (Chatin) Trappe, Parladé & I.F. Alvarez) after Gennadios! In “Fungi hellenici” are included folk names “Drava”, “Chalpoutsa” and the impressive “Hydanon”, as it is well known that Hydnon (Hydnum) was the name used for truffles by ancient Greeks! They are names used by inhabitants of the Peloponnese for hypogeous species of genus Terfezia that they ate and still eat today. It should be noted that “Terfezia” in Arabic means hypogeous.
The situation, however, has changed radically over the last five years, as trained dogs are now used in the search for hypogeous fungi (Lagotto, Griffon, Labrador, Pointer, Kurzhaar, Épagneul Breton). Three factors have primarily contributed to this development:
- a) the rich – as it has been proved to be – in truffles ecosystems of our country
- b) the reproduction, training and supply of truffle dogs in our country
and c) acquisition and spreading of knowledge on hypogeous fungi through mycophilic societies by means of seminars, publication of related literature and information in the press.
The first person to bring a truffle dog to Greece was George Setkos, president of Western Macedonia mycophiles, who in 2001 brought in a trained dog from Italy. Unfortunately, the dog had an inglorious end, falling victim to intentional poisoning before it even had an opportunity to demonstrate its skills… In March 2006, George Setkos and Panagiotis Diamantopoulos go to Italy on a truffle hunt together with professional truffle gatherers and dog trainers. They return to Greece with about 60 truffles and Dollie, a trained truffle dog. In the same year, Panagiotis Panagiotidis, a member of the Eastern Macedonia and Thrace Mycophiles, meets experienced Italian truffle gatherer and dog trainer Pino (Giuseppe) Donatiello and together they form a strong duo. Soon, in addition to the group of first truffle gatherers Setkos, Panagiotidis and Donatiello, new groups of truffle gatherers are created, equipped with trained dogs bought in Greece, imported from Italy or trained by the gatherers themselves.
Alongside that team of “organized” truffle hunters, there emerges another group of “classic” gatherers of terrestrial mushrooms, who also detect and unearth hypogeous fungi without the aid of a dog. Thus, a number of approximately 90 more species have been added over the last few years to the list of hypogeous fungi that have been recorded in Greece, raising their total number to 100.
Recording the “Truffle of magnates” (Tuber magnatum)
A climax was definitely reached when the dearly priced white truffle, the “Tuber of the magnates” (Tuber magnatum), was recorded in October 2011 by George Setkos, thus adding Greece to the list of the very few countries where the white truffle has been recorded (Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Albania, Spain).
Samples of all those hypogeous fungi are kept mostly in George Konstantinidis’ personal samples bank, as well as in Vassilis Kaounas’ personal samples bank and in the samples bank of the Agricultural University of Athens.
European interest and collaborations
In June 2008, an organized 10-person delegation of Greek mycophiles-truffle gatherers participated in the 2nd truffle festival in Corilignano d’ Otranto of Grecia Salentina, Italy. There, the Greek delegation members had fruitful contacts with members of the Αssociazione Amici del Tartufo Corigliano d’ Otranto and the Αssociazione Micologica Bresadola, mycologists from the universities of Salento, Lecce, Bari, Perugia και Basilicata, as well as with the president of the local society of truffle gatherers Giuseppe Lolli, who shared with us secrets of truffle dog training in the quest for truffles. It was then that a close collaboration was initiated between Greek and Italian mycophiles, the latter having visited our country more than 10 times.
Over the last few years, serious scientific interest has been shown also by Spanish and Bulgarian mycologists, with whom a fruitful collaboration is in progress.
Source: George Konstantinidis: Mushrooms, a mushroom gatherer’s photographic guide, 2014