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If you’ve ever read up on some of the most elaborate and high-class foods available worldwide, you’ve probably heard of truffles. I’m not talking about the chocolate version, though! This time, I’m referring to the delicious, incredibly rare fungus that grows on the roots of some trees and comes at a very high price in certain markets.
Although you might not know what makes truffles worth so much money, you’re probably well aware that people pay exorbitant prices just for the luxury of consuming a truffle. But have you ever really stopped to think about what makes these excellent mushroom cousins so special? If so, you’re in luck! This article is here to teach you everything you’ve ever wanted to know about white truffles, and then some!
But just what is a white truffle? These are symbiotic fungi that grow on the roots of trees in certain parts of Europe, and simply put, they are some of the most expensive culinary ingredients in the world. White truffles are the rarest form of truffle, topping even the winter black truffle in price and in difficulty to locate.
Long ago, truffles were considered a delicacy and a literal gift from the gods. The ancient Greeks believed that truffles first came about when lightning struck a tree and created these delicious ingredients in its roots. Over time, the truffle became more and more associated with affluent pagan nobles, and it slowly took its place as a popular food item for those who could afford it.
During the rise of Christianity, the truffle was considered too exotic and was banned throughout much of Europe. Many of the trees under which truffles grew were destroyed throughout the centuries, contributing to their rarity today.
But what does the modern world of truffles look like? Read on to learn all about where they come from, how they grow, and where you can pick up the best specimens of white truffle for your next incredible cooking experience.
Where do White Truffles Come From?
It’s one thing to understand what white truffles were like in the past, but it’s another matter entirely to learn about where they come from today. Before you can really understand the cost of truffles or how rare they really are, you first need to learn about their origin and how they can be located. If you’ve ever wondered anything about where to find white truffles, read on to have all your questions answered!
Do White Truffles Occur Naturally?
The short answer is yes! They do occur naturally, but there’s a little more to it when learning where are white truffles found. They do grow in nature, but the conditions have to be very specific. They can only be found growing on the roots of certain types of trees, including hazel, oak, beech, and poplar trees, and they require a very particular type of climate in order to thrive. For this reason, it’s sometimes more likely to find white truffles that have been grown by farmers and large-scale companies devoted to producing this rare ingredient. However, it’s not impossible to find them simply growing wild out in nature, particularly if you know where to look.
One of the most common ways that truffle hunters and farmers locate these delicacies is to employ the use of dogs to help sniff them out. Dogs can easily be trained to find the pungent aroma of truffles, even if they’re very well hidden. With the help of dogs, it’s much easier to locate wild-growing white truffles and to find them before they get too over-ripe to harvest.
Where do White Truffles Grow?
You’ve learned about how the white truffle forms in nature, but where do white truffles grow? It’s no secret that they’re pretty rare. They can’t be found just anywhere, but one of the most common places for these fungi to form is in the northern part of Italy. Some of the most well-known specimens of white truffle have been found in and around the city of Alba, and others have been located in Croatia. Sometimes they can be found in France, as well.
Prime white truffle harvesting season is in the fall. During this time of the year, white truffles bear “fruit,” and are large enough to slice off and sell at high prices. It’s important to wait and harvest white truffles in autumn, and not get ahead of yourself if you do find them growing wild somewhere! Truffle growers who cut their truffles too early end up with a mushroom that doesn’t taste like anything. On the other hand, waiting too long can cause the fungus to rot, or to become frozen and hard on the inside.
How Can I Grow White Truffles?
It sounds like a lot of trouble to go out in nature and find white truffles, doesn’t it? Because of this, you might be asking, “Can you grow white truffles instead?” It is possible to grow white truffles on your own, but it’s not an easy task. To begin with, if you don’t live in northern Italy, you may have a lot of trouble finding the right climate for your truffle crop.
Learning how to grow white truffles in other parts of the world is very tricky, but not completely impossible. The first step is to be sure you have plenty of land because it’s going to take tons of trees to make this work well for you. You want the best possible chance at getting truffles to grow on your trees’ roots, so plant as many trees as you can, giving them room to grow well.
When learning how to grow white truffle crops, you must remember that you can’t force truffles to grow. They either will, or they won’t. Keep the pH of your trees somewhere between 7.5 and 7.9 to give them the best chance of growing, and be sure to compost regularly. You’ll probably need to install an irrigation system to water your trees often, because the trees themselves need to stay well hydrated, and so does the soil around them.
Be patient! It can take five or more years for truffles to start forming on the roots of your trees. If you do get truffles, take care of them and they will continue to fruit for years to come.
How Can I Tell the Quality of a White Truffle?
Now that you know about white truffles price per pound, you can learn a little bit more about how to tell the quality of a white truffle. You definitely don’t want to spend the money on a truffle that isn’t good enough quality, just because you don’t know what you’re looking at! Remember these simple tips and you’ll be picking the perfect truffle out in no time.
- Pick up the truffle. How heavy is it? A good quality truffle should be pretty heavy for its size. If it feels very light, put it back, because it’s probably already starting to rot on the inside. Since the white truffle price per ounce can be very high, you might be tempted to choose lighter ones, but this can be a big mistake!
- Look at the truffle. Does it have any noticeable blemishes? It probably won’t be washed yet when you’re picking through fresh truffles, but this isn’t considered a flaw. If you notice any holes or pits in the truffle, that can be a deal breaker. Understanding how much are white truffles means knowing how to shop for those that aren’t too badly damaged. If they’re not in good shape, these truffles should be used for shavings instead of sold whole.
- Smell the truffle. A white truffle should smell earthy and a little bit like garlic. If the garlic smell is too strong, the truffle might be on its way out already. The smell should be rich and fragrant without any hint of ammonia.
- If possible, ask for the truffle to be scratched. Most reputable truffle sellers should be willing to scratch the skin to show you what the truffle looks like on the inside. If they won’t do it, they might be hiding something, like a lower-quality specimen. You should be able to see the veins inside the truffle without the insides looking much darker than the skin.
What are White Truffles Used For?
The most common use of white truffles is, of course, slicing them thinly or grating them and mixing them into food. If you plan to use your truffles this way, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure that you get the best possible experience out of your delicacy.
- Be sure to store your truffle while it’s still dirty. Cleaning the truffle will remove some of its flavor, so you don’t really want to do this until it’s time to actually eat it. The longer it sits without dirt the less earthy flavor it will have overall.
- Don’t store your truffle in rice, even though some cooks might suggest it. Rice has a habit of absorbing flavors from around it, and you’ll probably end up with a flavorless truffle and rice that tastes like mud!
- Leave your truffle dirty, but wrap it in dry paper towels and then wrap it again in aluminum foil. You can keep it in the refrigerator for a day or two, but the longer you leave it chilling, the less flavorful it will be.
- When you’re ready to eat your truffle, wash it gently to remove the dirt, but don’t over-scrub it. Using a mandolin or a truffle shaver, shave it into thin slices or grate it before using it. There’s no reason to do anything else to your truffle. Serve it raw or lightly cooked, but be careful not to over-cook it.
Aside from this common use of white truffles, however, there are a few other ways these ingredients are used that might surprise you! Check out this list of some less obvious ways you might come across white truffles.
- Truffle oil. As discussed earlier, a lot of the time, white truffle oil isn’t really made from truffles. Be very careful if you purchase truffle oil, and check the label to be sure you know where it comes from. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Truffle butter. Again, we’ve discussed this earlier, but it’s a great way to enjoy the flavor of truffles without having to break the bank to do it. You can pick up good quality truffle butter from any reputable truffle dealer.
- Truffle cheese. Like truffle butter, truffle cheese can help you get the taste of truffles without having to spend the money for a full specimen. It can be served as a spread or incorporated into other dishes.
Try this delicious risotto recipe when you want to really let your truffles shine.
- ¾ cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups of sliced leeks
- 1 sliced onion
- 1 pound stemmed and sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1 tsp minced thyme leaves
- ¼ cup melted butter
- ¼ cup stick butter
- 1 tbsp real white truffle oil
- 5 cups vegetable broth, heated
- ½ cup white wine, dry
- 2 tsp chopped truffle
- ½ cup grated Parmesan
- 1-1/2 cup Arborio rice
1. Boil cream and leeks together in a saucepan over high heat.
2. Turn to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt.
3. On a large baking sheet, combine mushrooms with melted butter, onion, truffle oil, and thyme.
4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Season ingredients withs alt.
5. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes.
6. In a heavy saucepan, melt 2 tbsp butter over medium heat and cook onion for 5 minutes.
7. Add rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute.
8. Add wine and cook for 1 minute more, stirring.
9. Add broth slowly, one cup at a time, and turn to low. Bring to a simmer and stir until broth is completely absorbed by rice.
10. Add leek cream, baked mushrooms, cheese, remaining butter, and truffle pieces.
11. Stir and remove from heat.
Poached Truffle Eggs
Truffles and eggs go great together. Whip up this spin on eggs benedict to enjoy truffles with brunch.
- 4 artichokes
- 1 halved lemon
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp flour
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1-1/4 cup heavy cream
- 3 ounces trimmed small mushrooms
- 1 tbsp grated Parmesan
- ½ tsp real white truffle oil
- ¼ tsp pepper
- 4 eggs
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 1 ounce white truffle
1. Trim and split artichokes, then rub with lemon juice and dice.
2. Simmer 2 quarts of water in a large pot with flour, salt, oil, and some lemon juice.
3. Add artichoke pieces and simmer, covered slightly, for 20 minutes.
4. Remove from heat and let stand in warm water.
5. Slice mushrooms and add to a small saucepan with cream, cheese, and salt.
6. Simmer for 10 minutes until reduced.
7. Add truffle oil, salt, pepper, and artichokes.
8. Turn to low and keep warm.
9. Put an inch of water in a large saucepan and add vinegar.
10. Bring to a gentle simmer.
11. Crack eggs into a cup one at a time and slide into water gently.
12. Poach for 2 minutes.
13. Remove eggs with slotted spoon and serve topped with artichoke cream sauce.
14. Grate truffles and serve raw on top of eggs and sauce.
When all else fails, make a simple truffle pasta with slices of your best quality truffle!
- ½ cup butter
- 1-1/2 pounds fresh fettuccine pasta
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1-1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 ounce white truffle
1. Cook pasta until al dente and drain.
2. Melt butter in a large stock pot or sauce pan.
3. Add cream and cheese, and stir to combine.
4. Add pasta and toss with salt and pepper.
5. Serve topped with raw grated truffle.
Best White Truffle Brands
There are quite a few good places to pick up white truffles online, and if you’re looking for the best stores to order from, you’ve come to the right place. Remember that the cost of white truffles per pound can change dramatically depending on where your truffles are sourced from and what time of year it is when you do your shopping, but don’t be afraid to look around and see what you can find! Check out this list below to find four of the best places to buy white truffles online, and soon, you’ll be cooking these delicious delicacies like a pro.
- Gourmet Foodstore – Check out Gourmet Foodstore for some of the best quality fresh or frozen white truffles available on the market today. The white truffle cost per ounce from this vendor is usually very competitive, making it an excellent choice for anyone based in the United States who would like to try out cooking with truffles. If you’re not too interested in picking up expensive whole truffles, you can find some jarred brushed truffles here instead, which might be more affordable depending on what you plan to use them for.
- D’artagnan – Although D’artagnan does not necessarily get a shipment of fresh white truffles in every year, you can pick up frozen truffles from this company if you’re willing to try something slightly lower in quality. Frozen truffles are still an excellent choice, and they can help you bridge the gap between the white truffle cost per gram and your budget. This is also a great place to buy truffle butter if you’re interested in giving it a try, or to pick up some truffle cheese spread.
- Urbani – Urbani is one of the most well-known names in the United States truffles supply industry. This company gets all of its truffles fresh from Europe, and it aims to harvest, sell, and ship them all within 48 hours. When you order from Urbani, you can rest assured knowing you’re getting a very high-quality product from a company that has been tested time and again and proven its worth with chefs from around the world. Urbani also supplies plenty of other truffle-based products, so you can sample anything you might be interested in.
- Alma Gourmet – You can pick up one, two, or four-ounce packages of frozen white truffles from Alma Gourmet even when they’re not in season, or you can wait until the fall and purchase them fresh from this company. Whichever you choose, you’ll receive very good quality truffles that are packed with flavor. Do note, however, that this is one of the most expensive stores to buy from per ounce of truffle.
Time to go truffle hunting! If you’re not quite ready to go dig up truffles on your own or buy acres of land to try to grow them, then never fear! You can easily pick up a delicious specimen fresh or frozen from one of the great vendors listed above. I personally recommend trying Urbani if white truffles are in season because this is one of the most well-known and highly reputed white truffle suppliers around.
By now you should know everything you need to understand where white truffles come from, what makes them so special, and why they cost what they do. You should also have a great starting point for a few recipes to help you incorporate your delicious rare ingredient into your next meal. So what are you waiting for? It’s time to shop for some truffles!