The world of truffles remains, to this day, a great mystery not only for the general public who have never come close to this gastronomic jewel, but also for the greatest experts.
Among the hundreds of species of truffles that exist, there are two that are by far the most appreciated on a culinary level: the black truffle and the white truffle. And between these two, the white truffle (Tuber Magnatum) takes first place because of its unique and exclusive characteristics.
The singularity of the white truffle
The most singular character of the white truffle is undoubtedly that of its birth. After many attempts over the centuries by societies around the world, it has never been cultivated. The white truffle only knows how to live in the wild. No one has ever been able to tame it and it only grows where it wants to. Only those who seek it with skill and hope will find it. A real buried treasure, with no map to reveal where it is.
The great chain of factors involved in the miraculous creation of the white truffle
The white truffle is only found in Eastern European countries, from Italy to Bulgaria, via Croatia, Kosovo, Serbia and Slovenia.
The factors that decide the birth or not of a truffle are a mixture of scientific certainty and uncontrollable chance. The spores of a truffle do not function in the same way as those of fungi, which move according to the climatic conditions and the wind. It is easy to understand why: truffles are hidden underground, so it is impossible for their spores to travel with the wind. The spores of the white truffle travel thanks to... animals. Animals as diverse as squirrels and wild boars are also attracted to the incredible aroma of Tuber Magnatum, and when they find one, their animal instincts drive them to dig until they manage to eat this very special mushroom. After a few days or hours, these animals expel these spores during defecation and external factors such as rain or insects bring them back into the soil.
The conditions do not end there. White truffles (and all truffle species in the world) need the root of a tree to grow. And once settled on the roots, there is a small possibility that this spore will turn into a truffle again. But don't be hasty: there are documented cases where a spore can reproduce into a white truffle more than 30 years after the process has been completed.
What a trip, eh? Perhaps you will now understand a little better the price of a white truffle...
Only in autumn: another mystery
White truffles are only available from October to December (until January in exceptional cases). Why? We still don't know. Many truffle experts have tried to scientifically prove why white truffles are born in October, but nobody has found the answer. It could be the rains.
James Trappe, author of numerous books and scientific articles on the truffle, has been studying the process for over 60 years and has failed to find the key to this mystery. In an interview in Ryan Jacobs' book The Truffle Underground, Mr. Trappe states that “the process is so complicated that we are still a long way from really understanding why a truffle ends up developing. I say the truffle "receives signals", but I really have no idea what the signal is and how the tree transmits it to the fungus."
Italy: the birthplace of " tartufo bianco"
If a country is associated with the white truffle, it is Italy. This is where, they say, the best white truffles in the world come from (even if few people in the world have tasted it, whatever their origin). What is certain is that it is in this region that there is the most tradition and culture around this highly valued mushroom.
Alba is a small municipality in the Piedmont region of Italy, known for the "Feria del Tartufo Bianco ". This is a fair known to top chefs around the world, as it is where the best white truffles from what many consider to be the best white truffle region in the world are auctioned. At this fair, bids for white truffles exceed 6000€ per kilo. Although there are sometimes "small" exceptions: in 2009, a Hong Kong citizen paid €100,000 for a 750 g truffle. Pure madness!
Prohibition of cooking
Another surprising paradox with the white truffle is that one of the world's great dishes... cannot be cooked. Adding white truffles to a pan would make no sense, as it would only have the opposite effect and would diminish the aroma and flavour of the product.
It has been proven that the best way to enjoy this truffle is to eat it just after slicing it: it is it is when cutting that it releases its magical and hypnotic aroma. An aroma that is impossible to describe and that has seduced thousands of people over the centuries.
There is no doubt that you cannot leave this world until you have succumbed to the charms of the unique and exclusive white truffle.