The epitome of gastronomy and prized by chefs, truffles are regarded by many as a diamond in the kitchen. From fries and pizza, you’ve probably seen truffle accents on menus from the simplest to the most elaborate. Fresh truffles, however, are reserved for the most special culinary occasions—they’re most likely to show up on menus from fall through winter. So, what exactly are they?
For the simplest explanation, truffles are frequently associated with mushrooms, but they are much more complex. A truffle is indeed in the fungi family (well, actually it’s the fruit of fungi), and it grows entirely underground in a beautiful relationship with the roots of certain types of trees (oak, beech, and hazel). They’re a precarious crop to grow and difficult to harvest.
Coveted for their rarity, the culinary allure stems from that specific aroma and elusive flavor. Described as sublime and mysterious, truffles have a unique taste, reminiscent of earthy mushrooms with more depth and complexity. They are certainly not for everyone, though!
Where are they grown?
Italians have been harvesting truffles for thousands of years. Italy’s northern region of Piedmont is home to the prized white truffle (tartufo bianco), the most rare and expensive truffle in the world, in some cases commanding several thousand dollars per pound.
France is home to the famous and equally alluring Perigord black truffle. Grown in the Dordogne region, the season runs December through March—it’s not too late to visit the Fête de la Truffe this in January.