The Truffle is a mythical mushroom. Extremely rare in its natural form, truffle growers have managed to breed them, much to the delight of epicures.
The truffle comes from mycelium, a mushroom classified in the category of subterranean ascomycete fungi (the spores are enclosed in a bag). About 30 species have been recorded, among them the Perigord Truffle which is particularly tasty, the summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) which has a lighter flavour, and the Alba truffle which is found only in the Italian Piémont region, and is distinguished by its white colour.
Depending on the species, the truflle varies in colour from deep black to white. The Perigord truffle, which everybody considers to be “real” truffle, has an irregular tuber form covered by a skin which comprises tiny pyramids with four, five or six faces which make it look like a diamond from the outside. Beneath the skin, the flesh or “gleba” is a deep black colour with white veins running through it. This mushroom is known for its characteristic intense aroma which has captured the most refined of palates for centuries.
Truffle harvesting starts in November, peaks in mid-January and ends in mid-March. Even though some truffles have weighed up to a kilogramme, the average weight is between 20 and 50 grammes. Extremely rare in its natural state, the truffle has been grown for centuries in truffle farms. It grows in light, brittle, well-drained, calcium-rich soil, alongside certain trees, generally oaks, but also hazelnut trees, walnut trees, blackthorn and field maple trees. When the tree is planted in the farm, it takes at least ten years before its roots are colonized and the first truffles appear.
The truffle is grown mainly in France (Perigord, Languedoc, Bourgogne…) but other less flavoursome varieties grow in China. The trufle farms of the southwest of France are the most productive with an average of thirty tonnes harvested each year.
Did You Know ?
- The truffle is often said to be an aphrodisiac. In fact, ther is no proof of this ! However, its perfume is fairly close to that of the sexual organs of pigs….This explains why the sow naturally goes in search of the black diamond !