Tuber magnatum Pico - Piedmont White Truffle
Tuber magnatum, the Piedmont White Truffle, grows in symbiosis with the root systems of deciduous trees such as oaks, hazel , poplars and beech, i.e the fungus occupies the host plant's root tissues.
Truffles are ascomycetes, which liberate their spores from flasks (asci, sg ascus). They are able to do that though they grow underground with the help of the mammals who dig them up and eat them. After the spores pass through an animal's gut and are excreted, they become able to produce a new mycelium that further colonizes the root system of a new tree and so encourages the growth and enlargement of the fungal species.
Piedmont White Truffles have the most intense and exclusive aroma of all truffle species.
Cutting one releases the distinctive flavor. The animals with their sensitive noses can smell the truffles from above ground. That is why truffle hunters use either pigs or dogs to help them find the truffles.
The White Truffle or Piedmont Truffle is found in the Piedmont area in the north of Italy and in the Motovan Forest on the the Istria Peninsula in Croatia. So far there have been no reports of finding this species in the UK. As these truffles live underground they can be seldom noticed by tourists so their exact location and frequency of occurrence are a matter of proposition or commercial secret. There are never too many White Truffles at the market, and therefore the price keeps being very high.
In 1788 Italian mycologist Pico described the Piedmont White Truffle for the first time and named it Tuber magnatum, which became its generally-accepted scientific name.Its other names are: Tuber griseum Pers., and Tuber griseum (Pers.) Fr.Etymology)
Tuber, the generic name, comes from the Latin word tuber(lump or swelling). The specific adjective ‘magnatum’ means 'of dignitaries' (from the same root as 'magnates', therefore, and meaning a VIP person).
The shape of a truffle is difficult to describe: Some of the blobs are usually spherical and irregularly multi-lobed.The outer skin of a Piedmont Truffle is creamy brown and similar to a potato. The truffles are most often a few cm across and of 50 to 400g each. There are sometimes found non-ordinary samples of over 1kg each.
The pulp of creamy –yellowish to ochre color is covered by white membranes in irregular patterns.
The spores are ellipsoidal to nearly globose, 35-50 x 32-42µm; laced with an irregular rough reticulum.
The best harvesting season : Autumn.
The Perigord Truffle Tuber melanosporum has a blackish skin covered in small cracked polygonal sections with shallow sections in between; its spore interior is darker than the interior of the Piedmont White Truffle.
The Summer Truffle Tuber aestivum has a blackish or dark brown outer skin covered in irregular pyramidal warts. The spore interior is initially white, tending to change to beige or grey-brown and laced with white membranes in irregular patterns.
White Truffles are very expensive edible fungi. Truffles are so expensive to buy that they are generally not cooked but only shaved very thinly and added to a meal in tiny quantifies. Another way to use a truffle is to spray 'truffle oil' over the meal. The truffle oil sold in shops does not typically contain truffles at all but is produced synthetically and tries to replicate the exceptional aroma of real truffles.
Did you know?
On weekends in October until mid November the annual White Truffle Fair and Market is held in the city of Alba, terminating in a World Truffle Auction.
An enormous Piedmont Truffle weighing 1.5kg was auctioned in 2007 and brought a third of a million US dollars to its owner.
Tuber Magnatum Pico is also found in Bulgaria.