Truffles are believed to have first emerged onto the tables of Sumerians around 1600-1700 B.C.
The origin of the word truffle is thought to come from the Latin term tuber meaning “swelling” or “lump.”
The name evolved to become “tufer” and the word was adopted across Europe.
Truffles are often referred to as “diamonds” and are highly coveted by gourmands, chefs, and foodies alike.
Fresh black truffles are one of the most highly sought after commodities and as such, are widely counterfeited and stolen. Security checks are ramped up at airports during peak shipping times to and from certain destinations as well as conducting random spot checks for cars during the peak foraging season.
Truffles are part of the mushroom family. They grow in the wild throughout Europe, deep beneath the roots of majestic elm, oak, chestnut, hazelnut, and poplar trees, depending on the region.
Truffles are very difficult to find and as such, truffle hunters use specially trained dogs to seek them out. It is these dogs that will spread their spores rather than the wind. Cultivating truffles is extremely difficult as they are entirely dependent on the perfect microclimate.
The winter season is thought to produce the best truffles as the conditions are often the most conducive to growth, neither too warm nor too cold.
The Black Winter Truffle (tuber melanosporun) also known as the Perigord truffle, is native to Southern Europe and the second most expensive truffle to purchase.
The growing season runs between December and March but hit their peak in January and February when the aroma and flavors are the strongest. They require well-drained soil and as such, can be found growing on hillsides in a humid microclimate averaging 6 degrees.
The Black Winter Truffle has a robust veiny flesh with a blackish purple coloring and emanates the strongest aroma of all black truffles with hints of cocoa, earth, and tannins.
The Black Summer Truffle (Tuber aestivum) is a mild truffle especially common in Eastern Europe from May to September.
The truffle is black with a pale flesh ranging from cream to grey as the truffle matures. It exudes a more delicate flavor than the black winter truffle, one of hazelnut and caramelized cream. It has a firm crunchy texture and bites.
White Truffles (tuber magnatum) aka “White Diamonds,” are the most expensive and sought after fresh truffle. They are extremely difficult to procure as they only grow around the roots of certain trees and require a particular climate in which to thrive.
They like a chalky soil, rich in calcium with a specific ph level native to Europe. The growing season is typically from September to December but they peak in October and November.
The White Truffle is the most fragrant and flavorful of all truffles but once opened, dehydrates the quickest of all truffles as a result of the quick release of gases. It is these exact gases that give this truffle its exquisite flavors. White Truffles should almost always be shaved raw on top of dishes.
Burgundy Truffles (Tuber uncinatum) grow more widely than any other truffle between September to December and span across Central and North Europe.
They have pointy shaped bumps around the entire truffle resembling rough bark and taste nutty with hints of earth. They are prized for their gastronomic qualities in Europe where they are very abundant.
Until next time!