One of the most famous delicacies from Italy is the truffle, also known as il re della tavola, the king of the table. The truffle has a long history. Already in antiquity they were a delicacy and the Roman Marcus Gavius Apicius has in the Latin text By Re Co Maquinaria (about the art of cooking, probably one of the first cookbooks) also included a number of recipes with truffles.
Italy is rich in truffles: all types of truffles used for culinary purposes can be found throughout Italy, making Italy one of the largest exporters of truffles in the world.
A culinary treasure
Truffles have a very pronounced and strongly earthy taste, which distinguishes them from other types of mushrooms. Only little truffle is needed to give a dish the well-known truffle flavor and that's a good thing. Truffles are also quite pricey. The preciousness of the truffles is related to the fact that it is impossible to grow truffles and that people are completely dependent on mother nature. One season there are more truffles available and the price is a bit lower and the next season there are few truffles available and the price shoots up even further.
The fact that truffles grow underground and are so difficult to find also drives up the price. Truffle hunters have specially trained dogs or pigs to find the truffles. Although pigs are still used for truffle hunting in France, since the end of the Second World War, dogs have been used almost exclusively in Italy because they can be better trained. Pigs often turned out to be so greedy that they immediately ate the find.
What, where and when
The most famous truffle is the black truffle. But there are also white truffles and each species has different subspecies of truffles. All in all, there are about 200 species in total, but only a few are used for culinary purposes in Europe. The most coveted (and most expensive) truffle is the white truffle, the white truffle, mainly found in the Piedmont, Lombardy and Umbria region between mid-September and late January. The most famous black truffle is the black truffle, mainly found in Abruzzo, Piedmont and De Marche (Le Marche) between mid-November and mid-March.
Although truffles are always seen as a typical winter product, there are also truffle varieties that grow in summer. Like for example the summer truffle, also score zone called. This is a slightly less expensive variant of the tartufo nero pregiato and it has a slightly less strong aroma. This species can be found between mid-June and the end of August and from the beginning of October to the end of November in the regions of Abruzzo, De Marken and Piedmont, among others.
Did you know?
Finally, a fun fact about the truffle. Did you know that on December 1, 2007 the most expensive truffle ever was sold? The truffle, found near Pisa, weighed a whopping 1,497 kilograms and sold for a record $330.000 at auction. The buyer was Macau casino tycoon Stanley Ho. The truffle was expected to fetch about $22.000.