The “white truffle” or “trifola d’Alba Madonna” (Tuber magnatum) is found mainly in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont 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. Italian white truffles are highly esteemed and are the most valuable on the market.
The Truth about Italian truffles:
- Truffles are a type of mushroom or fungi that grow under the surface of the soil, usually close to tree roots.
- There are around 30 different types of truffles in Italy, but only a handful are edible.
- 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.
- The white truffle season runs from September to December, but other types of truffle can be hunted at different times of the year.
- Truffle prices can vary greatly from year depending on weather conditions, rainfall, summer temperatures and hunt success. Prices have been recorded at $14,000 per Kilo.
- 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.
- The ancient Greeks thought truffles were made when lightning hit damp soil.
- Italians consider the white truffle (tuber magnatum) to be superior in taste to the black truffle (tuber melonosporum).
- Pigs, & trained dogs 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 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.