What Is a Truffle and Where Does It Come From?


Truffle is a mushroom that grows underground at a depth of 20 cm. It is not only the most expensive mushroom in the world but also a delicacy that is difficult to get. In shape, the truffle resembles a potato tuber, its flesh is reddish, it turns black towards maturity. There are about a hundred species of these mushrooms, but the Perigord black truffle, Italian, and winter truffles received the highest rating and recognition of gourmets due to their unique “truffle” aroma.

Where do truffles grow best? Truffles grow best in the USA, Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia, and the UK. Now China has become the largest truffle producer in the world. Truffles are found in Spain, Serbia, Albania, Hungary, Australia, and other countries. The geography is now very wide, not just France or Italy.

Truffle mushrooms grow underground in small groups, in which there are from 3 to 7 fruiting bodies with a gristly or fleshy consistency. The distribution area of ​​truffles is very extensive: this delicacy is harvested in deciduous and coniferous forests of Europe and Asia, North Africa, and the United States of America.

50% of the world’s truffle crop is eaten in France. And the largest supplier in the world is China, where truffles are grown artificially.

What tree do truffles grow under? Truffle is a hypogenic mushroom (living underground) in the form of a tuber, which lives only in symbiosis with the roots of a certain type of oak, linden, hazel, hornbeam, and poplar. Truffles grow under birch, poplar, elm, and linden, oak, hornbeam, or beech trees.

Summer black truffle prefers deciduous or mixed forests and calcareous soils of Central Europe, Scandinavian countries, the Black Sea coast of the Caucasus, Ukraine, as well as certain regions of Central Asia.

The winter truffle grows not only in the groves of Switzerland and France but also in mountain forests. The fruit bodies of the white Moroccan truffle can be found in the forests along the Mediterranean and North African coastlines. This truffle mushroom grows near the roots of cedar, oak, and pine.

What time of year do you find truffles? You can find truffles from late autumn to early winter. The season of white truffle collecting lasts from October to December, and of black from November to March. Piedmont white truffle harvesting officially starts on September 21st and ends on January 31st. Mostly in Italy, mushrooms start to be collected in October. These mushrooms are harvested only with the help of trained dogs, and pigs are not allowed.

Truffle Growing Conditions 

What conditions do truffles grow in? Truffle grows in the conditions of clay-calcium soil. Truffles need good drainage because excessive moisture may make truffles rot. The required pH level for the soil is 7.5. The temperature should not drop below 10-15 degrees, otherwise, the truffle freezes to ice since it consists of 80% water. Autumn truffles are less sensitive to low temperatures, while winter ones are pickier. 

White truffle can be found only in very rare places with a set of specific characteristics: in clayey, moist, soft, calcium-rich soils, close to waterways, and places with good air circulation, with a certain height above sea level (between 400 and 1000 meters).

How long do truffles take to grow?  Truffles usually take 6-8 months to grow. How deep in the ground are truffles? The truffle begins to grow underground, reaches 20-30 cm, and only after that, it appears on the surface, after which it needs several more months to ripen. For example, a winter black truffle makes its way to the surface in March and is fully grown by November. 

How many truffles can one tree produce? Up to a thousand mushrooms can grow under one tree, but over time, only 3-4 remain. However, the mycelium will take 10-15 years to sprout. Another condition is the presence of the right neighbor – truffles grow under trees, or rather on their roots, and choose only certain species as their home: oak, birch, hazel, beech. By the way, not all types of truffles can be cultivated. The white truffle from Alba grows by itself and is impossible to grow.

In scientific terms, truffles belong to the Tuberaceae family, to the genus of tubers, the class of ascomycetes.

Truffle consists of:

  • About 80% of the water.
  • Approximately 15% cellulose and fiber.
  • About 3% protein and fat.
  • Approximately 2% salt and phosphate.
  • Approximately 0.01% essential oils, which are responsible for its unique scent.

In 100 g of truffles, there are only 31 kcal, 4.5 g of protein, 2 g of fat, 0.3 g of carbohydrates, and 8 g of fiber.

What is the value of a truffle? The value of a truffle is in its aroma, and not taste. Truffles have almost a neutral taste. It is a truffle’s aroma that makes it valuable. The truffle contains vegetable proteins, carbohydrates, vitamins of group B, PP, and C, various minerals, antioxidants, pheromones that help to improve the emotional state of a person, and a large amount of fiber. 

The penetrating and persistent odor in the mushroom develops after maturation and has the natural purpose of attracting wild animals (pig, wild boar, badger, fox). So that the animals dig up, eat, and spread spores with their secretions and help the fungus multiply.

The unique culinary properties of truffles have long been known. They are suitable both for making pies, sauces, and pie fillings and as an addition to poultry and seafood dishes. Sometimes they can be served as a separate dish. Truffles can be harvested for future use by freezing or canning in high-quality cognac. 

There are no special contraindications for eating these mushrooms, the main condition is the freshness of the mushroom and the absence of allergic reactions to penicillin in humans.

Types of Truffles

There are 63 types of truffles in the world. 34 of which are of European origin. 25 of them are found in Italy. But only 9 of them are considered edible, and 7 are the most common on the market.

Also, truffles are divided according to the season: summer, autumn, winter. Seasonality strongly affects the aroma and taste, the palette of which changes from lighter in summer varieties to rich in winter ones. Of course, the more fragrant mushrooms are the more expensive ones.

The richest, and therefore the most expensive, is the white Italian truffle Alba from Piedmont. It costs 4,000 euros per kilogram. All forty-two types of truffles are edible, but not all are distinguished by some outstanding flavor characteristics. 

Truffles can be found even in the sands of the Arabian Maghreb, only these mushrooms will not be remarkable in any way. There they are fried in vegetable oil and eaten as if they were potatoes. In Morocco, for example, they sell roasted truffles in bags along the roads, which can be eaten like roasted chestnuts.

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