My friends rented a vacation villa in northern Italy where they were introduced to white truffles. While they are there, the property owner and his dog search daily for the “diamond of the kitchen.” When his dog was a puppy he was trained to search for these wild and highly prized fungi. White truffles grow wild and are found an inch or more below ground near the base of oak, chestnut, hazelnut, and horn beam trees (all hardwood trees). With head to the ground, the dog sniffs in search of the distinct aroma of the white truffle; then, the owner digs in the earth until his fingers feel a knobby-shaped sphere covered with a firm flesh. He extracts his find and gentle brushes away the dirt. In his hand is a pale cream to a light brown-colored truffle. He brings it to his nose and breathes in an intense smell like nothing else he has encountered. He cannot resist the temptation and takes a bite to taste the earthy flavor. He even gives his hunting companion, his dog, a taste. He takes the truffles into the villa and his wife prepares various entrees using the fresh fungi. She puts truffle shavings over risotto and mash potatoes. She uses some of the shaving to prepare creamy or buttery pasta dishes. She even puts paper-thin slices in a closed container with food so the truffle’s aroma will infuse into the food.
Each year white truffles can be found from October to December in Italy. A pound of white truffle can sell for $2,000! Why so much? They are only found in the wild. The demand exceeds the quantity. Their scent begins to disappear immediately after the truffle leaves its home under the ground and the truffle must be eaten within a few weeks. People love the unique taste and are willing to pay highly for it.
White truffles are the most expensive fungi; black truffles from France are in second place. Like white truffles, black truffles have an earthy taste. In France they are harvested in the wild from late autumn through late winter. Dogs are used to sniff out the location of the truffles below the earth. Unlike white truffles though, black truffles can be grown in other locations besides France. Roots of young oak trees are inoculated with the fungi from France and planted in an orchard. It is important that the orchard’s soil and the weather where the orchard is located are suitable for the fungi to grow. The first truffles will not appear until four to nine years after the trees are planted. During these years, the orchard must be well maintained which is a gamble of time and money. Since truffles form underground, during these years it is possible the orchard is nonproductive.
If you want to experience the taste of a truffle without breaking your piggy bank, there are truffle sauces, oils, and salt for sale on the internet. If you can afford to purchase a truffle, purchase two and gift one to a special friend. You can find numerous recipes on the internet to include with the truffle. Your friend would be delighted to have it delivered in a hand-made basket with the I LOVE TRUFFLES sticker from STICKERTALK tucked inside!