White, black, globular, round. The truffle is one of nature’s mysteries that we still don’t understand. Here are 10 things about the curious tuber
Gambero Rosso – These days, cities such as Alba, Acqualagna, Città di Castello, Pietralunga, and Savigno are in turmoil all for the same reason: the prized white truffle. This is, in fact, the period in which the truffle emerges from the earth discovered by lagotti, truffle-loving bloodhounds, cockers and other dogs with the best nose on radar. But what is known (or not known) about truffles?
10 odd things to know about truffle
We went to the Salone del tartufo Bianco Pregiato in Città di Castello, held every year (for 43 years, now) in the Umbrian town, and among the dogs, truffle hunters, and tastings, we discovered many things about the truffle that are worth learning.
It is well known that, without dogs, humans are completely unable to detect truffles with their olfactory abilities. And to think that pigs were once used to search for truffles. The practice of the pig companion, however, was lost when it was realised that logistically it was no longer feasible to take them into the woods, that they could unknowingly sink their paws into places in the ground that held truffles and thus ruin them.
Types of truffle
The truffle is not just black and white, there are nine types that can be marketed in Italy and they are all found at different times of the year. To be clear, the season for the prized white is between October and December; between November and March it is possible to find the prized black; from January to April is the period for “bianchetto,” the black summer truffle or Scorzone is available from May to August.
And then there are also: Norcia fine black, winter black, smooth black, muscat or strong black, uncinato, Bagnoli black.
The price of truffle is not fixed and can also change during the season. Obviously, the main reference is the year: whether or not the weather has favoured the proliferation of truffles, and this affects the supply. Another criterion to consider when pricing a truffle is the size, small sizes between 8 or 20 g will cost less than 50-gram ones, for example. Not to mention extra sizes of over 100 grams, which can go up to almost 5,000 euro, if we are talking about prized white truffles. There are online stock exchanges that constantly update the price of truffles even after a few days.
The white truffle cannot be cultivated. A few experiments have been made, but all with negative results. The same cannot be said of the black truffle which, on the contrary, can be cultivated. It is done in purposely-built truffle-grounds that are subject to preventive controls to verify suitability.
The life of truffle is very short. Its organoleptic characteristics remain at their best for about ten days, after which it begins to lose its aroma and consistency. For best storage, it is best to keep it wrapped in paper towels and avoid sealing it in a jar.
How to clean truffle
When harvesting, it is best to handle it carefully and use one of the special brushes to remove excess soil. When using it, it should be washed well under running water.
How to recognise good truffle
A good truffle can be recognised by its colour, smell and a careful visual analysis. The prized white truffle from Città di Castello, which we had the opportunity to evaluate, is bright yellow in colour and may have cracks that are not synonymous with low quality. On the contrary. On the nose, there are hints of garlic, wildflower honey and stable meadow hay. If you smell ammonia or rotting, it means that it is no longer good. Furthermore, a fine white truffle is of quality if it is hardy when crushed, otherwise it has not completed its cycle in optimal conditions.
The inside should not be white, but with hazelnut hues (at least for the prized white one) otherwise it means it is not ripe. It is well known that round truffles may be worth more on the market because they are better cleaned and sliced, but this does not necessarily mean that they are of higher quality than the more globular ones. The important thing is that they are intact, otherwise they should be eaten immediately.
One must be careful with truffle products because not all of them contain a high percentage of the product, in fact often the content is very low if not zero. Just read the label. We are mainly talking about creams that often have a strong smell and taste, but this is only due to the presence of flavourings.
Is truffle export possible?
The truffle has a very short life, as we explained earlier, but it can also be transported abroad and even reach the United States! Hoping for a journey that lasts no longer than a week, fresh truffles are stored in polystyrene boxes that are in contact with ice and there they maintain their state of preservation.
Città di Castello truffle
One out of every three truffles sold in the world comes from Città di Castello. The quantity of fine white truffles in the area is so high that they can even be found in the gardens of houses. They grow in sandy and watery soil, but also in hilly areas. This is the characteristic that makes the prized white truffle of the Umbrian city unique: the diversity of soils.