Facts about Truffles and their Varieties Used in Cooking

Truffles are highly valued throughout the gourmet world for their tantalizing taste and aroma. This article provides information about them and their varieties used in cooking.
Tastessence Staff
Did you Know?
Truffles have been dubbed as the "Diamonds of the Kitchen" by the famous French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin.
Truffles are edible fungi that grow underground, about one to four inches below, on the roots of certain trees such as beech, poplar, oak, birch, pine, and a few others. They share a symbiotic relationship with the host tree. The non-fruiting part (hyphae) of truffles helps the host absorb minerals in the soil. In return, the truffles get carbohydrates and other nutrients from the host tree.

A few years ago, truffles predominantly belonged to the woods of Italy and France. However, with the advent of technology, cultivation of truffles became successful. They can now be found in North America, Middle East, Asia, and Australia. Though Australian truffles boast to be at par with their French and Italian counterparts, the same cannot be said about Chinese truffles.
Varieties of Truffles
Winter Black Truffle (Tuber Melanosporum; Tuber Brumale Vitt; Extra Melanosporum; Tuber Aestivum Vitt; Asian Tuber Indicum) Winter black truffle, popularly known as the "Black Diamond Truffle" or "Périgord Truffle", is the number-one truffle in the world, and hence the most expensive of all. Although this variety is harvested mainly in Italy, Spain, and France, the finest black truffles are believed to come from the Périgord region of France. The harvesting season starts from November and continues till the month of February, when the harvest is usually at its peak. The truffle typically weighs between 2-3 oz., and has a distinct flavor of earth mixed with chocolate.
Winter White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) The winter white truffle is popularly known by different names, including "Piedmont Truffle", "White Truffle from Alba", and "Italian White Truffle". This unique garlicky flavored truffle is mainly found in Italy, especially Piedmont, Tuscany, and Marches, and also in some parts of Europe and Croatia. The fresh winter white truffles are yellowish in color and emanate a strong earthy aroma, which tends to fade away quickly as opposed to their black counterparts. Therefore, the fresh white truffles should be used as quickly as possible after they are harvested. They are mostly used sliced or shaved to garnish food preparations.
Summer Black Truffles (Tuber Aestivum) Although the summer black truffles are not as highly sought-after as the winter variety, they are still preferred by many since they are highly palatable and affordable. They are harvested during the summer months starting from May till the end of August. These fresh truffles are better enjoyed by adding to many different recipes.
Summer White Truffles (Tuber Magnatum Pico, Tuber Borchii) This variety, also known as the "Marzuili truffle", is the best among the summer varieties. It is similar to the winter white truffle, with the only difference being that they are harvested in summer instead of winter. Also, they are found in the same regions where winter white truffles are harvested. Although they are not as highly aromatic as their winter counterparts, they have a similar garlicky flavor and are best used sliced or shaved over already cooked dishes.
truffle varieties
Truffles Used in Recipes
Truffle Potatoes
Truffle Potatoes
black truffle ravioli pasta
Black Truffle Ravioli Pasta
spaghetti with fresh truffle
Spaghetti with Fresh Truffle
trueffel mit pasta
Trüffel Mit Pasta
Facts about Truffles
  • Truffles are one of the most expensive foods in the world since they are difficult to find.
    • The winter truffles are considered superior in taste and quality as compared to those grown during the warmer summer months.
    • In Europe, truffles are harvested with the help of female pigs or truffle dogs since they are able to sniff the strong smell of mature truffles buried deep inside the ground. Dogs are preferred to pigs since they do not eat truffles like the pigs do.

    • Pigs are used to find truffles since truffles produce a chemical that is almost identical to a sex pheromone found in the male pigs' saliva.

    • Fresh winter black truffles from Périgord are prized by chefs throughout the world for their special flavor and aroma.

    • Ancient Greeks and Romans used truffles as delicacies, aphrodisiacs, and medicines.

    • Truffles were a particular favorite of King Francis the 1st of France.

    • The most expensive truffle was sold for over £28,000.

    • Truffle oil contains only tiny amounts of truffle.

    • The two most well-known truffles in the world are the black Périgord of France and the white winter truffle of Italy.

    • The largest truffle market in the world is in Richerenches, a small village of France.

    • There are over 60 species of truffles in England alone. However, there are only a few edibles ones, and they are rarely found.

    • Truffles are believed to have aphrodisiac properties.

    • Chocolate "truffles" look like real truffles; hence the name.
    The increasing demand and subsequent scarcity of truffles has led to exorbitant truffle prices. Although truffles are cultivated commercially, even today, they remain to be a luxury item for many.