The Truth about truffles
1 Truffles are a type of mushroom or fungi that grow under the surface of the soil, usually close to tree roots.
2 There are around 30 different types of truffles in Italy but only a handful are edible.
3 Truffles will only grow in woods where there are certain specific species of trees including oak and poplars. The truffles form a symbiotic relationship with the trees and would not grow without them.
4 The white truffle season runs from September to December but other types of truffle can be hunted at different times of the year.
5 Truffle prices can vary greatly from year depending on weather conditions, rainfall, summer temperatures and hunt success.
6 A truffle’s flavour depends on its moistness and freshness. Truffles lose their flavour after just a few days as they dry out so always buy fresh to get the best quality and flavour.
7.Truffles grow in harmony with a host tree, enabling the tree to take in phosphorus while in return the truffle receives sugars enabling it to grow.
- The ancient Greeks thought truffles were made when lightning hit damp soil
- Truffles are mushrooms which are believed to have started growing underground to beat forest fires, drought and severe cold
- Italians consider the white truffle (tuber magnatum) to be superior in taste to the black truffle (tuber melonosporum)
- Pigs, trained dogs and goats are used to sniff out truffles which produce a chemical almost identical to a sex pheromone found in male pig’s saliva. Men secrete the same chemical in their underarm sweat
- The truffle has been described variously as a diamond of cookery, fairy apple, black queen, gem of poor lands, fragrant nugget and the black pearl.
- The truffle farmers of Italy guard their properties during the height of the season with armed security, so precious is the truffle
- A rare Italian white truffle sold for £28,000 at a charity auction in 2004
- A fabled aphrodisiac, the black truffle’s penetrating aroma led the Epicureans to liken the scent to that of the tousled sheets of a brothel bed. In the Middle Ages, monks were prohibited from eating truffles for fear they would forget their calling.
The White Truffle
The “white truffle” or “trifola d’Alba Madonna” (Tuber magnatum) is found mainly in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of thePiedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti; in Italy it can also be found in Molise, Abruzzo, and in the hills around San Miniato, in Tuscany. It is also found on the Istria peninsula
Growing symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech and fruiting in autumn, they can reach 12 cm (5 in) diameter and 500 g, though are usually much smaller. The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling. Italian white truffles are very highly esteemed and are the most valuable on the market: The white truffle market in Alba is busiest in the months of October and November when the Fiera del Tartufo (truffle fair) takes place. In 2001, the Tuber magnatum truffles sold for between $1000–$2200 per pound ($2000–$4500 per kg); as of December 2009 they were being sold at $14,203.50 per kilogram.