When truffles were first introduced in the 17h century, they were a delicacy that belonged solely on the dinner plates of upper classes, but within recent years their availability has increased to a point where they are of an easily affordable price. However, making sure you purchase the correct truffle for the meal you are cooking is vital. Here is a guide to the most common truffles available.
The white truffle grows in regions of Italy and their period of annual growth only lasts from late September to late November. Due to their rarity, white truffles are more valued than their black equivalents. This can be seen in the prices that are willing to be paid for them. The record bid for a white truffle sold at auction is an amazing £165,000.
White truffles have a powerful scent as intense as garlic but their taste has a more earthy quality compared to the sweet chocolate and vanilla taste of a black truffle. White truffles shouldn't be cooked whole but instead lightly sliced or shaven over the top of an existing meal to give it an extra kick. Meals perfect for this garnishing range from fresh salads to pasta and omelettes dishes.
This truffle is the black truffle found during the winter months. 40% of the global produce of Tuber melanosporum is grown in Spain, and although their size can vary, their aroma which is more pungent than that of white truffles more than makes up for it. The Tuber Melanosporum grows in the roots of oak and hazel trees where they ripen from December to March. To harvest Tuber Melanosporum successfully, farmers must use sniffer dogs to track them down from deep within the earth.
Tuber Aestivum is the black truffle that grows during the summer months. It resembles the black winter truffle except that its interior is less dark. Tuber Aestivum is by far the most common truffle available due to its longer harvesting period during the easier to access summer months of May to September. The aroma it produces is actually slightly different by being less pungent than its winter counterpart, but its wider availability means it sells for a lower price. This makes black summer truffle perfect for any aspiring chef to experiment with if they intend to make truffle based recipes.
If you're not sure that you want to pay the full rice of a fresh truffle, you can always gain an understanding of what they taste of by purchasing good quality truffle oil which is designed to reproduce the taste of genuine truffles, black or white, without the cost of buying the real thing. Truffle oil can be used to in a range of meals just as truffle shavings can be added, the taste is so convincing it's difficult to tell the difference