The precious white truffle (or Tuber Magnatum Pico) is the so-called king of truffles.
But what is white truffle? Or better ask, what is tartufo bianco (if you are in Italy)?
The tartufo bianco is the most valuable variety of this family of underground mushrooms and constitutes an Italian excellence.
It can be sliced (raw) or used in flakes on first and second courses. Its taste is incredible and will let you enjoy extraordinary fragrances and aromas. The white truffle is also indicated for enriching main courses and desserts.
The white truffle (the king of truffles) arrives at our tables to enrich, dishes based on pasta, meat, fish, or desserts with its intense and enveloping flavor.
When is white truffle season in Italy?
Now, (at the time we are publishing this article) it is October, the harvest season for the tartufo bianco. In fact, the precious white truffle harvest period begins at the end of September and lasts until the end of December.
If you are a beginner and still make some confusion between the harvest periods of the several types of truffles, there is a simple, original, and fun way to remember them.
How about combining truffle seasons with songs? “Wake me up when September ends” for example, is an iconic and extremely popular Green Day song that can also remind us of when is tartufo bianco season in Italy.
Find out how to get prepared for its harvest season by reading the following lines.
Discover all details about the white truffle: aromas, flavor, and best recipes to enhance its taste.
White truffle, how to recognize it
The precious white truffle has the most disparate forms, since most of them come from clayey soils and therefore are medium compact.
Truffles coming from sandy soils are more regular in shape instead. Those are also more palatable (for the same weight they are slightly more expensive) and usually have a rounded shape with protrusions and cavities.
The external surface (the peridium) is smooth, very velvety, with a straw color.
The gleba (the inner part) has a variety of colors ranging from yellow to grayish, from sand color to shades of intense pink.
In fact, the truffle stains pink if it encounters some roots, like the sanguinello ones. In addition to that, there are visible white veins inside this type of truffle.
Those crossing veins take on a more reddish color over time, also depending on the type of soil, the symbiont plants, and the degree of ripeness.
The white truffle is often called the white truffle of Alba: this, however, is only a way of calling the precious white truffle. There are no differences between the white truffle of Alba, Acqualagna or Ascoli Piceno and those of Abruzzo, Molise or Tuscany.
This is because the morphology of the tartufo bianco is given by the type of soil, combined with other factors such as the type of exposure, the type of symbiont plant, the altitude, the presence or the absence of other roots in their proximity, the depth in the ground.
We can say that truffles are like brothers: they are more or less like each other, but they are never identical, even within their natural truffle farm.
A practical example? A white truffle found under an oak tree in sandy soil will be different from the same type of truffle found 300 m away, always under an oak, but in clay soil.
The same applies to truffles that are under the same tree: they are always different. One can be more mature than another; they can have different shapes; they can appear regular or less regular and so on. For instance, truffles resting on a root can also present dark spots on the peridium and other differences.
Where to find the white truffle: how to harvest it
Is it possible to grow white truffles?
Some attempts have been made: the plants are produced and mycorized very well, but the results obtained so far are much poorer than with the growth of other truffles, such as Precious Black and Scorzone.
The precious white truffle prefers certain conditions to grow and ripen.
The best white truffle soil characteristics are:
- Sloping soil
- Soft and humid soil and environment all year round
- Airy soil
- Soil rich in calcium and potassium
Regarding the altitude, this truffle can grow from few meters above sea level up to one thousand meters above sea level (with some exceptions, sometimes It grows even higher).
This variety of truffle grows in symbiosis with some plants: oaks (such as oak, downy oak, oak, Turkey oak), poplars (black and white), hazelnuts, willows, linden, black hornbeams, oriental hornbeams and, sometimes even with some conifers such as black pine.
For this reason, the white truffle is only found in environments where these optimal conditions are present:
Piedmont, in the area between Langhe and Monferrato (the white truffle of Alba), in the Marche (the white truffle of Acqualagna), in Istria (river Mirna valley), in Umbria (in the upper Tiber valley and between Gubbio and Orvieto), in Tuscany (the famous truffle of San Miniato) and in Molise (in the areas between Isernia and Campobasso). Other white truffle habitats can be found in Abruzzo, Calabria, Basilicata and Campania.
Anyway, as for other truffles, the whole Italian Apennines from north to south is the habitat of the tartufo bianco.
The harvest season of the precious white truffle begins, as mentioned, when September ends and continues until the end of December. The seekers (in Piedmontese dialect they are called trifolau in Ascoli dialect, cavatò or tartufà), are provided with a regular card that authorizes them to collect truffles and move at night (in areas where night collecting is allowed). The night collecting is good to avoid revealing the collection areas and anticipate competition. Those authorized truffle hunters are accompanied by one or two truffle dogs to find this underground treasure.
It is forbidden to collect truffles without a trained dog. Truffle hunters must also respect other rules like the harvest season and the use of the special truffle hunter’s vanghetto, a small spade that is used not to ruin the habitat of the truffle.
This tool is sensitive to the slightest changes in the surrounding area. The vanghetto (also called ralla or ralletta in the Ascoli area) is regulated in shape and size by regional and in some cases provincial laws.
White truffles, scent and taste
One of the first things that distinguishes the precious white truffle from all other types of truffles is the scent: pungent, intense, and remarkably reminding of the one of garlic.
An unforgettable perfume and that, according to some, also recalls the scents of wet earth and hay: an enveloping, unmistakable whole, which distinguishes the precious white truffle and allows us to recognize it with our eyes closed.
And then, the flavour. As in the case of the scent, the taste of the white truffle has notes that recall garlic; slightly spicy (a bit like those of fermented cheese), but which soften as soon as you continue with the tasting, giving us an aftertaste that recalls the notes of honey.
For this reason, thanks to its extraordinary flavor, the white truffle is a prominent element in the kitchen and knows how to turn into a precious ally for many recipes.
Tartufo bianco recipes can vary from a classic white truffle risotto to a fresh egg pasta, such as tagliolini or tagliatelle, which blend perfectly with the taste of truffles. But it is also perfect grated on a dessert. How about, for example, a cheesecake or an original panna cotta ice cream enriched with white truffle slices? Or, why not, melted white chocolate, creamed before it cools with a grated white truffle. A real delicacy, ideal to amaze friends and relatives!
However, be careful to use it in the correct way. When using the precious white truffle in the kitchen, it is important to remember that:
- It is very delicate and should be used only raw, precisely because of its unique and intense flavor: a violent cooking or (worse!) a sauté would irreparably ruin the taste.
- Be careful to dose the quantity well. In fact, if used in excessive quantities, precisely because of its strong flavor, it risks covering the other ingredients of the dish. The ideal is to grate it or use some flakes in moderation.
A practical example? Let’s say that, usually, an amount of 7/10 grams per person per dish is enough, but the white truffle can also be used in larger doses, according to tastes and combinations. Keep also in mind that the fresh white truffle (as well as any other truffle), should be enjoyed as soon as possible and stored only for a few days to release all the intensity of its taste. Therefore, it is advisable to buy only the necessary amount for the recipes. In fact, this is also the best way to amaze friends and relatives. In case you have bought too much, follow our tips on how to preserve and use leftovers to embellish your dishes in a few minutes.
The days get shorter, the leaves fall off.
Autumn has begun: the ideal time to discover and rediscover all the suggestions of fragrance and flavor that the precious white truffle can bring to your table.