Tuber Magnatum – Italian White Truffle
The Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum) is found primarily below 600 meters ASL in Northern Italy and up to 900 meters ASL in Central Italy. It is also found in small areas of south-eastern France, in Istria, Croatia, and the Ticino district of Switzerland.
The mean January temperatures in these areas range from -2 to 8°C and mean July temperatures from 18 to 26°C. The mean annual precipitation varies from 500 to 2000 mm, which is spread more or less evenly throughout the year. Though in summer, this rain is usually as thunderstorms.
In Italy, this truffle is found in woods with more or less closed canopies, also in areas with relatively sparse vegetation along stream beds. Host trees include the hazelnut (Corylus avellana), willows (Salix spp.), hop hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Italian alder (Alnus cordata), poplars and aspens (Populus spp.) and oaks (Quercus spp.). The most productive hosts are poplars and willows.
The Italian truffle is harvested from mid August until the end of December. In August and early September, the fruiting truffles are usually severely infested by insect larvae such as Suillia univittata.
Unlike the black truffle, the Italian truffle is used either uncooked or added to dishes after cooking. The white truffle is used as flavouring for salads or pasta, to retain its delicate and volatile aroma. As the black truffle is usually used in cooked dishes and is harvested between November and March, there is little competition in the marketplace between the two types of truffles.
Tuber magnatum (Italian white truffle) is the most expensive of the truffles. It is considered to be the queen of all truffles while the black truffle is considered king in gastronomic circles.
Large Italian white truffles in excess of 250 gr. and up to 2 kg. usually demand a relatively higher price. The harvesters receive about 60% of the wholesale price. In Italy, to avoid paying taxes on the truffle sales (paid by the seller), as much as half of the crop is sold on the black market.
The Italian white truffle has not yet been cultivated ( artificially inoculated ) on to any host tree yet. So supplies are limited to what can be harvested from natural areas. Even thou in the year 2010, there where reports saying that some scientists were close to successfully inoculating host trees with the Italian white truffle spore or mycelium. So lets hope that this mystery can be finally solved and plant more Italian truffle trees.
Italian white truffles are commercially canned and bottled but the aroma changes in this process. When the truffle is preserved, they are quite inferior to the fresh truffle. Cans and bottles of Italian white truffle may also contain other morphologically similar species such as Tuber dryophilum, Tuber borchii (bianchetto) or Tuber maculatum. Italian white truffle oil is widely sold in upscale delicatessens. Sadly, most of these truffle flavoured olive oils have never seen a truffle. The truffle aroma is usually being derived from added chemicals. Despite the high demand and the high prices prices, the production of the Italian white truffle, like the black truffle, has declined over the past 100 years.
The Black Truffle