What are truffles ?
Truffles are fungus which grow underground close to trees or bushes with which they live in symbiosis, exchanging certain essential nutritional substances. There are more than twenty five varieties of truffle in Italy, but only a few are edible and have commercial significance.
Where to find them?
The presence of truffles is connected with those species of trees and bushes which are commonly found in Tuscany, such as oak trees, poplars, willows, lindens, pines, hazelnuts, and cistus trees and inside woods, either as isolated plants or in rows. However, each truffle has its own specific area of growth. In general, the most valuable truffles are also the rarest. Because of the varied types of environment in Tuscany, all types of edible truffles may be found there, from the most prized ones to the so-called “lesser” varieties. Truffles are picked with the aid of a specially trained dog.
How to recognise them?
They appear as “tubers”, generally globular in shape (the so-called “ruit bodies” of the fungus, or “carpophores”).
They are covered on the outside by a smooth or rough “rind” (the peridium).
Inside they have a fleshy “pulp” (the gleba).
When ripe they give off a characteristic aroma, particular to each varieties.
When to find them?
Each variety ripens at a certain type of year:
– the precious white truffle in autumn;
– the precious black truffle and the winter black truffle in winter;
– the whitish truffle in winter and spring;
– the summer black truffle and the black
truffle (Tuber Uncinatum Chatin) in summer and autumn.
Fresh truffles may be stored for a rather short time (one or two weeks at most), for example by wrapping them one by one in porous paper (to be replaced every so often) and putting them in glass jars in the fridge.
How to enjoy them?
The truffle is one of the best condiments which can be used in the kitchen. It is advisable to use it fresh. When fully ripe it best displays its qualities. Each variety of truffle has its own particular, typical aroma, which is suitable for specific culinary uses.
How much they cost?
Truffle prices may vary a great deal from year to year, due to the seasonal nature of production. As a general rule, this mainly depends on climatic conditions such as rainfall, summer temperatures etc, which can cause price variations even during the production season itself. On the domestic and international market, the most important truffles are the prized varieties, for which, as a rule, demand exceeds availability of the product. In recent years, the lesser varieties are also becoming more important, such as the marzuolo, the scorzone and the uncinato.
6 things you should know about the world of the truffle!