Have you ever wondered why a root parasite is regarded as one of the most exciting and expensive foods in the world?
I mean a subterranean fungus , that for people who try it for the first time smells like garlic, herbs or even methane gas!
An irregular lump with wrinkles that get sniffed and founded by dogs or pigs…, you may wonder how can it be raved and desired by top chefs from around the world.
In fact, it is only after the truffles have been brushed and then shaved raw on top of the dish, whether on a simply buttered fettuccine or a steaming cheese fondue that the Tartufi Bianchi d’Alba release their aroma and flavors which many describe as divine
Truffles of various types may be found along the Apennines, the mountain range which splits the Italian Peninsula. However, it is Alba, a city in the region of Piedmont that is the Mecca for the most prized white truffle or tuber magnetum.
Truffles have been known since the ancient Greeks, who regarded them as epicurean delicatessen and powerful aphrodisiacs. Roman writers described them as miracle of nature and gifts of gods. During the Middle Age and the Renaissance period Europeans coveted the culinary characteristics of truffles and their attraction kept on growing. Today the white truffle is highly appreciated in most cuisines around the world.
- What is a white truffle?
Truffles are the fruiting body of mushrooms that grow underground symbiotically on the roots of oak, hazel, poplar and beech. They fruit in autumn and they are found in the market from October to December. Although they can reach 4 inches in diameter and 1 lb. in weight usually they are much smaller. When shaved raw the small flakes’ flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling.
- Where is white truffle found?
White truffle comes from the Langhe , an area in the country side around the city of Alba in the region of Piedmont in the Northeastern part of Italy. Less regarded quality of white truffle can be also found in Croatia.
Since the late eighteenth century Alba (first founded by the Romans) has been ranked as the best truffle land. It may just be that this territory enjoys peculiar soil and climate. Truffles, as fungi, need dampness in order to grow, a conditions that is favored by the cooling effect of the close Alps which work against the dry heat coming from the Mediterranean Sea.
Forests with a high concentration of oak and linden are desired vegetation and along with calcareous soils with many water streams around create a perfect situation for truffle growth. Furthermore, it is common in this area to rain the months of August and September and since white truffles take 1 ½ to 3 months to grow the climate condition becomes highly desirable.
Following are some characteristics to help you choose the best of the batch:
- The best Alba truffles have a unique aroma that can be smelled from the other side of the room
- The shape appears rounder with a smoother surface and a firmer texture inside with respect to other truffles
- A tawny brown to pale colored flesh presenting white marble veins
- Larger healthy looking spherical shape.