What are Truffles? The Scientific Approach

Truffles are the underground fruiting bodies (or sporocarps) of fungi belonging to the family Tuber. Truffles live in symbiotic relationships with trees, with different species exposed to different temperatures, humidity and altitudes. The result is truffles can vary in color, flavor and shape and their external skin can range from smooth to bumpy.

Where do Truffles Grow?

Deep in the woods, 6 to 20 inches underground and in a perfect symbiotic relationship with the roots of a variety of species of trees, mother nature peacefully grows the sensational gourmet miracle of all times, Truffles! There are only 4 countries in the world where white truffles grow: Italy, Croatia, Romania and Bulgaria.

Truffle Characteristics

Truffles are the underground cousin of the mushrooms.  They are roundish fruiting bodies belonging to the fungi family and have a firm consistency, comparable to a raw potato. Truffles are better known as a tuber in the scientific world. Truffles are available in variety of colors and sizes ranging from white to black in color, and can grow as small as a grape to the size of an apple, however they are rarely found weighing over a pound.

A Curious Mystery for People and Animals Alike

Known for their exceptional aroma and uncommon flavor, truffles are coveted by many even before harvested. From the wild by animals which by following their unique aroma will dig deep underground to find them, to the city where humans will eccentrically pay over $130,000 for a single piece.

Shaved paper thin on top of some dishes as a garnish, truffles turn simple dishes such as eggs into an exquisite gourmet dish served at 5star restaurants.

Growing Truffles- What is the purpose of a truffle in the ground?

Tubers (latin for “swelling”) refer to the modified structures of a fungus that are enlarged to store energy and nutrients, which help the tree survive dry spells and/or the winter months.

Common Types of Truffles:

In the world, there are approximately 60 different types of tuber under the fungi species. Only 9 of them are edible and only 6 of them are more commonly commercialized, but only 1 holds the title as the most expensive food in the world pound by pound, The Tuber Magnatum Pico, aka the Alba White Truffle.

The top 6 most common truffles have exceptional characteristics uniques to their own, each one of different colors, aromas and taste.

  1. Tuber Magnatum pico better know as “Alba White Truffle” is the most coved and expensive food in the world.
  2. Tuber Melanosporum, better known “The French black or Périgord”
  3. Tuber Aestivum Vitt, better know as “Black Summer Truffle”
  4. Tuber Alboridium Pico, know also as Bianchetto which is Italian for “small white”
  5. Tuber Brumale Vitt, better know as the “Winter black truffle”
  6. Tuber Macrosporum, better know as the “Smooth black”

Anatomy of a Truffle

The worldwide famous Tuber Magnatum Pico better known as Alba White Truffle. Its only harvested 4 months per year, from September 21 to January 31. Truffle harvest Prime Time is best from the mid-October to mid-December.

The truffles shape is usually roundish, often flattened and irregular. The outside or skin” is called peridium with slight variable tones of colors from pale yellow with greenish trend tones to red brown and ocher.

The inside is called glebe it’s made of very sinuous branching of white veins with variations from milky white to pink or brownish tones.

anatomy of a white truffle

Truffle Hunting & Gear

Truffle hunting is the name given to the harvest of precious tuber. The hunting is done by a team of two members, a dog and his master. It will happen deep in the woods where the dog follows the special scent of the truffle and guides the master to the right location where the elusive truffle is buried. Once the truffle is located the dog will dig out just enough to find the vertex of it, from this moment the master stops the dog, and rewards her with a smaller piece of truffle or a dog treat.  The master delicately starts the excavation with the precision of an archaeologist. He must be careful in order to extract the truffle completely intact to ensure fair market value is achieved at the time of sale. The timing of excavation could take from 5 minutes to an hour depending on the size of the truffle and the root structures surrounding it. One of the most popular crazes among truffle fanatics is th e opportunity to go on a guided Truffle Hunting tour in Albas, Italy.


Truffle Uses

Truffles can be served fresh atop eggs, risotto, pasta and fassone row meat. They can be also be used to create truffle delicacies such as:

Truffles are one of the most exquisite delicacies on the planet. Their mysterious aroma and flavor will entice you to indulge in one of life’s greatest treasures.