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The Truffle

What are truffles?

Truffles, or “vegetable diamonds”, are essentially hypogeus mushrooms of a group of fungi in the genus Tuber: they grow and reproduce underground. They proliferate in association with certain types of trees and shrubs as they have nutritional relations with their roots.

They are irregular shaped and may grow as large as a potato but are usually the size of a walnut or an egg… The outer surface of trifola called peridio, can be smooth and of a pale cream colour in the case of white truffles, whereas black truffles look fairly smooth and darker. The inner part, called gleba, has white-pink to dark brown-nut colour and a marbled effect which is due to yellow narrow veins on darker more fertile areas.

Truffles develop their very powerful aroma and flavour according to ripeness, consistency of parts, acidity of the ground and surrounding vegetation. Among the most productive trees are mainly oak, poplar, willow, lime, beech and hazelnut. A defining role in the growth of truffles is played by acidity of the ground and temperature, as they prefer calcareous, well-aerated grounds and a temperate climate.

Truffle gathering remains an ancient art practised by few expert and certified people, called trifolau, helped by trained dogs with a fine sense of smell. Truffle hunters use dogs to sniff out truffles and then they dug them up carefully covering their niche to make other truffles grow up.

Truffle varieties

Truffles are divided into two big groups: white truffles and black truffles.

Tuber magnatum (or “old gentlemen relish”) or precious white truffle grows spontaneously in some area in Piedmont (Langhe and Monferrato), in Lombardy and in some regions of central Italy. The gathering season is from October through December.

Tuber melanosporum o tartufo nero pregiato cresce nell’Appennino Umbro-Marchigiano, in Piemonte, Veneto e Liguria. Matura da novembre a metà marzo.

Esistono poi altre varietà meno pregiate ma comunque degne di essere ricordate: Tuber albidum o bianchetto e il Tuber aestivum (tartufo nero estivo o scorzone).

Truffle varieties

Truffles are divided into two big groups: white truffles and black truffles

White Truffle

Tuber magnatum (or “old gentlemen relish”) or precious white truffle grows spontaneously in some area in Piedmont (Langhe and Monferrato), in Lombardy and in some regions of central Italy. The gathering season is from October through December.

Bianchetto Truffle

Tuber Albidum Pico or bianchetto truffle grows in light and sandy soils under coniferous and broad-leaved trees. The gathering season is from January to March.

Black Truffle

Tuber melanosporum or precious black truffle grows in Piedmont, the Apennine Mountains located between Umbria and Marche, Veneto and Liguria. The gathering season is from November through March.

Black Summer Truffle

Tuber aestivum grows in several soils and it is the most common among truffle varieties. The gathering season is summer.

Acquistarlo, conservarlo e cucinarlo

Preciuos Tuber Magnatum Pico is the undisputed king of Piedmont cooking. More recently, however, because of its high scarcety and high prices, it has been replaced by precious black truffle and black summer truffle or scorzone.

White truffle has to be sliced on dish at the end of cooking just before serving it. Black truffle, on the contrary, can be incorporated to foods while cooking.

Buying truffles from hunters might not be easy. It is surely better to buy them in specialised fairs (the most famous one is the Truffle Fair in Alba) or shops.

Although truffles are best eaten fresh, truffles can be also preserved wrapped in absorbent paper or cloth, store in an airtight jar in the lower part of the refrigerator.. Change the paper once a day to absorb any moisture that may cause rot. In these conditions a black truffle may be preserved for 8-10 days. A fresh white truffle has to be consumed within few days of harvest. However, we recommend consuming truffles as soon as possible to better taste their unmistakable flavour and aroma.

Before cooking, gently wash truffles with water and brush and lightly pat dry.

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