Tuber Magnatum Pico, also known as “white truffle”, is a hypogeal mushroom. It is one of the most sought after and appreciated truffles in the world and it’s typical of the Alba, in the province of Cuneo.
White truffle’s characteristics
The truffle is a mushroom belonging to the genus Tuber which completes the entire life cycle underground and is therefore called hypogeum. It is composed of an external skin, called peridium, which protects it from bacteria and other harmful organisms. Another component is the gleba, that is the internal fleshy mass, it is crossed by some wide and ramified veins that delimit the alveoli in which the asci, big cells containing the spores, are immersed. The white Alba truffle can take on different colors depending on the plant under which it is born and develops; it has a surface that ranges from light cream to ochre yellow, while its flesh varies from creamy white to yellowish with various nuances that can change depending on the degree of ripeness. The plants under which it finds an optimal environment are mainly poplar, linden, oak and willow.
White truffle’s do not have a defined size, and its measurements can vary from those of a walnut to the size of a large melon. It can weigh from several grams up to exceeding the kilo. It doesn’t usually appear of a very regular shape, especially when the ground of origin has not allowed free growth. When it grows in brittle soil, its appearance is smooth and its commercial value is definitely higher.
White truffle has a complex, intense and unmistakable aroma, much richer than that of the other varieties, with hints of garlic, hay, wet earth, honey, mushroom and spices. This factor is also influenced by the plant with which it is in symbiosis: an example is a truffle that is born under a linden, is certainly more aromatic and lighter than the truffle in symbiosis with the oak, which has a more persistent scent. The flavour of the white truffle is slightly spicy and may recall that of Grana Padano cheese. It should not be confused with “Bianchetto”, another truffle with a much more intense flavour.
For a specimen of 20 grams, the price is around 450 euros. There are also national estimates that calculate the turnover of fresh or processed Italian truffles at 500 million euros.
Birth, development and collection of white Alba truffles
The white Alba truffle is born in fresh and damp, clay-limestone soils with neutral Ph, at an optimal temperature of 6 ° C. From spores spreading, a mycelium develops which wraps around the root of a plant belonging to certain species. Hence born the mycorrhiza, a complex formed by hyphae and roots, which will grow in symbiosis with the plant. The mycelium that branches off from the mycorrhizae will produce the sporocarp, which is the truffle itself. It reaches full maturity around mid-October, but the best ones for quantity and quality mature around the time of the new moon in November.
Method and period of harvesting white truffle
The Alba white truffle harvesting season begins on September 21st and ends on December 31st it is called “cerca”. During this period, the “trifolau”, as the seekers are called, travel along with their trained dogs all the paths, even the most hidden, of the Langhe and Roero areas in search of the prized white truffle.
It is thanks to their amazing nose that truffle dogs can identify the precious mushroom, which, once found, will be extracted by the seekers with extreme care and with the use of the typical “zappettino”(literally “little mattock”).The search usually takes place at night so that the dog is not disturbed; it is considered free in the woods and in uncultivated land but it is forbidden in private truffle fields and in reforested areas of less than 15 years.
How to preserve the white truffle of Alba
The white truffle of Alba must be stored in a cold environment at a temperature between 3 ° and 6 ° C, preferably wrapped in a damp cloth, in a glass container, so that the fresh truffle will remain unchanged for about a week. Particular care must be devoted to conservation methods, since preserving the truffle in the wrong way could accelerate the deterioration process. However, we can say that it would be better to consume truffles as soon as possible as what makes a truffle better is the presence of water and the fresher the truffle is, the higher the percentage of water is and the better the out turn.
History of the white Alba truffle
Although we cannot be sure that the historians of antiquity really spoke of this precious mushroom, we are certainly sure that it was known even in remote ages. We can only hypothesize the presence of truffle in the diet of Sumerians and Jews, in fact, the first certain news we receive is from the Latin Pliny the Elder who in 79 AD quoted the hypogeal mushroom in the Naturalis Historia.
In the eighteenth century, the white Alba truffle was considered one of the tastiest foods in all the courts. The composer Gioacchino Rossini even defined it as “the Mozart of the mushrooms”. Although the white truffle has always been considered the most prized, only in the twentieth century has it acquired worldwide fame thanks to the promotion work carried out by Giacomo Morra, a hotelier and restaurateur of Alba who was “crowned” King of Truffles in 1933 by the Times.
Chemical composition of white truffle
|Chemical composition for 100 g of white Alba truffle|
|Chemical composition for 100 g of white Alba truffle|
There are numerous fairs dedicated to white truffles, among the most famous it is worth mentioning the International Alba White Truffle Fair, an event dedicated to excellent food and wine tourism, in which the World Alba White Truffle Market takes place, symbol of the Fair and its excellences. Another famous event is the National Fair of the prized white Truffle of Acqualagna, one of the main gastronomic events dedicated to truffle lovers, the most important event in central Italy dedicated to the Tuber Magnatum Pico.