A truffle is an edible fungi of the Tuber family, and it grows underground. typically near the base of an oak tree.
Truffles are normally black (although there are some light-colored truffles that are called “white” truffles, as well), roughly round in shape and have a musky, mushroomy, damp forest aroma. In the mouth, a thin slice of truffle feels crunchy and soft at the same time and has a wonderful, unique, earthy flavor.
In the past, pigs were used to find these truffles. However, the pigs had a real liking for the truffle and wanted to eat it themselves. (Ever tried to take a truffle away from a pig? I can’t imagine that it would be a fun experience.) Nowadays, dogs are primarily used to find truffles. A dog has to be trained, sometimes for years, to detect the scent of a truffle in the soil and to dig in that particular location.
There are several varieties of truffles out there. Our favorite is the Black Perigord truffle (tuber melanosporum) found in Provence between mid-November and mid-February.
Black Perigord Truffle (tuber melanosporum)
To me, this is the king of the truffle. This truffle is very dark in color and extremely fragrant. It is found primarily in the Provence region of France and is harvested between mid-November and mid-February.
Brumale Truffle (tuber brumale)
This truffle is normally harvested on some of the same sites as the melanosporum truffle, but is quite inferior to the melanosporum in flavor. It is lighter in color and in fragrance than the melanosporum and is heavily marbled with white inside. It is also harvested between mid-November and mid-February in Provence and the surrounding areas.
Black Summer Truffle (tuber aestivum)
This truffle is much lighter in flavor than the melanosporum, as well, and is normally harvested in France between May and September.
White Alba Truffle (tuber magnatum pico)
This truffle is found in the Piedmont Region of Italy and is normally harvested between September and December. The truffle is very light in color (beige to light brown), but the fragrance and the flavor are exquisite!
Truffles in the U.S.?
Truffles are now being cultivated in the U.S. We are planning to do some research this year on the truffles being grown in Oregon and in Washington State.
Also, there are truffles on the marketplace that come from China. They typically don’t have nearly the flavor (or the cost – unless someone is trying to pass them off as a better variety) of the Black Perigord or the Alba or the other truffles listed above.The truffles coming from Australia and New Zealand now are supposed to be very good (and they hit the U.S. market in the summertime).
See for yourself :
If you want to find out more first-hand about truffles, how they are harvested, how they are sold and how they are used, join us for one of our Truffle Getaways to Provence in the Winter.