wHat is a truffle?
What is a truffle ?
Truffles are the fruit bodies of a subterranean mushroom, hypogean fungus, called mycelium. They develop only in symbiosis relation with the root system of certain hardwood trees. They belong to the order of tuberales (ascomycetes). This relation, or partnership, between the roots and the truffle is called “mycorhize symbiosis”. The plant provides sugars to the truffle, which it cannot make because it does not carry chlorophyll; meanwhile, the truffle transfers to the plant dissociated mineral salts that the plant is unable to assimilate itself. The truffle needs a partner tree to develop and this is possible through the vegetative system of the mycelium. The mycelium is a white mold constituted by thousands of very thin filaments called “ife”. As we said above, it is the mycelium, from the mycorhize, which gives birth to little truffles. During the months of May and June, the mycelium retracts to form a little pellet- little ball- called “primordial”. If the primordial do not die, around July, these little balls will grow and become independent from the mother tree. During the summer, the truffle will develop to its normal size of 30-50 grams. Just at the time of hunting the smell and the color will evolve perfectly. The truffles are found by their intense smell, not by their size.
The “gleba,” or flesh, of the truffle is always marble-like with the presence of little veins. The gleba is protected on the outside by a variable cortical layer called “peridio”. The peridio could have its surface smooth, or rough or even warted. The color could be white, yellow-grey, brown or blackish.
The truffle is composed of: 75% water; 8% proteins; 7% glucides; 6% cellulose; 2% ashes; 0.5% lipids.
The truffle needs three essential end connected elements to grow: the particular soil, the climate and the host tree.
Where do they grow?
What do the truffle needs to grow!
The truffle needs three essential and connected elements to grow:
- The right Soil; - The right Climate; - The right Tree;
The favorable terrain is a clay-soil and calcareous compact on the surface. In the lower layer the ideal is great humidity, good source of calcium carbonate and free from thick underbrush.
As the pictures show below, several patched or circles of soft, burnt ground having no spontaneous vegetation. These rings are called “pianelli” in Italian and “brûlé” in French. These areas around the tree are a good indication that truffles are growing underground.
As you can see below right, European hazelnut trees (Corylus avellana) are also commonly used because of their rapid growth and extensive root system and they also allow for earlier production.
You can seee a black truffle Melanosporum Vitt in symbiosis with the hazelnut tree, pushing through the surface.
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The White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico)
"Il tartufo Bianco"
For the white truffle “Tuber Magnatum Pico” for example, the soil or terrain has to have some particular characteristics. It is favorable if the terrain is exposed at North, North-West. The woody intensity has to be 50% or less, and the shrubbery almost absent at 20% to 70% turf.
The internal hill areas are the more favorable, because the humidity of the soil is maintained constant by the periodical rains unlike the drier climate of the coast. The best areas are the little valleys protected from the wind, where the terrain remains more humid, longer. The white truffle grows in an altitude not more than 700 meters above sea level. It is very important that the pH of the terrain must be wide-ranging by a minimum of 6.8 to a maximum of 8.5.
As you can understand, the truffle grows when there is harmony among the environmental conditions. For the white truffle, the soil surface has to be lightly humid. The soil is gifted with limestone, poor of phosphorus and azote, rich of potassium, and close to streams. The common plants that live in symbiosis with white truffle are: different variety of oaks (cerro, rovere, roverella); different variety of willow tree (Salix caprea, salix viminalis, salix alba); poplar white; poplar black; Big-leaf linden (tiglio); black Carpinus; lime; sweet chestnut; and hazelnut. Usually the characteristic colors, flavors and aromas of truffles will be determined by the type of tree that it grows in relation with. For example, the truffle that grows near oak will have a more intense color, while those near lime-trees will be lighter and more aromatic. Their form, on the contrary, will depend on the soil: if the soil is soft the truffle will be smoother and rounder, if the soil is more solid, the truffle will be knotty and pimply.
"Tuber Melanosporum Vitt"
"Il tartufo nero pregiato"
For the winter, Black truffle “Tuber Melanosporum Vitt” the soil has to be calcareous and coarse-grained (sand, granular structure), which is able to easily absorb water, and encourages the development of the roots on the surface. The terrain must have a percentage of clay below 40%, otherwise, the water cannot penetrate and will create an asphyxiate condition. These terrains often are located around hills where the trees are six to twelve meters apart creating clean groves.
The Melanosporum grow mainly in symbiosis with varieties of oak: Holm Oak (roverella); Downy Oak (leccio); Turkey Oak (cerro); Bigleaf Linden (tiglio); Hazelnut; and Black Carpinus.
The areas where the Melanosporum grows in good quantity and quality have exposure to the South or South-East. It also requires a good penetration of light and the soil has to absorb the heat of the sun. Unlike the white truffle the Melanosporum can be found at 1, 100 meters of altitude. Also in this case the pH of the terrain can vary from 7 to 8.5.
The Tuber Melanosporum Vitt is known in Italy as the “Truffle from Norcia” . The French refer to this same delicacy as the “Truffle de Perigord”. After the white truffles, the black Melanosporum Vitt are considered the most valuable and are considered an integral part of international cuisine. The fruit of the truffle is black, roughly spherical and covered with small diamond-shaped projections, making them look like small, misshapen, dark-colored stones. The texture of the brown and blackish flesh or “gleba” of this truffle is so delicate that after touching it, it turns a red color with rust-colored undertones. Unlike the Winter Truffle (Tuber brumale vittadini), the white veins of this flesh are deeply defined and contrast boldly against the deep black pulp of the fruit, which often turns slightly violet. As we mentioned, usually the truffles thrive in an environment lacking in vegetation due to the actions of the mycelium, or fungus, common to the area. It is also possible to notice the presence of a particular kind of fly, the Anisotoma Cinnamomea, which deposits its eggs close to the truffles. This fly can also be helpful to the hunter to locate the truffle. The harvesting season begins in December and continues through March. Renowned for its aroma, the black truffle can be described as intense, aromatic and fruity. It is a complex mix of slightly sweet notes with earthy undertones. The most aromatic of the black truffles can be found among those harvested in the months of January, February until the middle of March.
G a l l e r y
•White Truffle(“Tuber Magnatum Pico”)
it is found from the middle of September through December 31
•"Tuber Melanosporum Vitt "
It is also known, in Italy, as the “Truffle from Norcia” and in French as the “Truffle de Perigord”. It is found from late December to late March.
The skin of the melanosporum is comprised of a striking mosaic of interlocking polygons. The flesh ranges from chocolate to nearly black with delicate white veining.
(Tuber uncinatum Chatin) also known as Burgundy Truffle or black Autumn. It is found from October to December. The Uncinatum truffle is more tolerant to lower temperatures, therefore it is found in higher altitudes than the Melanosporum truffle. The smell and taste of the uncinatum truffle is lighter of the melanosporum truffle, though it is stronger in intensity and aroma of the truffle aestivum Vitt. The mature fruit bodies have a pleasant smell that has been referred to as the smell of maize or the odor of roast barley malt. The gleba at full maturity is hazel-brown and marbled with meandering light veins. The Uncinatum is associated with many forest tree species such as Quercus (oak), Corylus (hazel), Fagus (beech), Carpinus (hornbeam) and Pinus (pine)
•Black Summer Truffles (“Tuber aestivum Vitt.”)
They are found from late May to September. They are black outside with more pronounced warting and a light center (gleba) yellow-gray color, with less veining. The aroma and flavors are light.
Best way to preserve the truffles
Method to preserve the truffle:
Fresh truffles should be eaten as soon as they are harvested. If you do wish to preserve them, avoid keeping them in the coldest parts of the refrigerator. It is important that each truffle is wrapped individually in a piece of soft, kitchen paper, then placed in a tightly sealed container and stored in the refrigerator. Make sure to find a place in your refrigerator that is not humid. The ideal container is a vacuum-sealed jar. It is recommended that the wraps are kept fresh with new kitchen paper every day. Remember that storing truffles more than seven to ten days will slowly lessen the fundamental quality.