In search of truffles, where to find them
Have you set yourself the task of finding truffles this year? Discover where and how to find truffles this season with us. Take note!
TRAVELLING WITH TASTE
With the arrival of winter comes the start of the truffle picking season, one of the most sought after and highly valued products of the season. And, during the months encompassed by this season, the towns and places where these fungi grow fill with tourists and enthusiasts in search of this precious delicacy. This pilgrimage is due to the fact that truffles are one of the most exclusive products in gastronomy, thanks to the laborious picking process, their exquisite aroma and characteristic flavour they add to the dishes they season, regardless of their form.
Although there are different types of truffle on the market, gastronomically speaking, we can talk about two varieties: black truffles and white truffles. Both are synonymous with exclusivity and, generally, with high prices thanks to the fact they are found in few places around the world. They are also a seasonal product. Some of the regions with the highest quantity and quality of truffles can be found in Spain. Would you like to discover which places and how to find truffles? We tell you below.
What are truffles?
Truffles are underground fungi which grow near to the roots of some trees such as oak, holm oak, kermes oak, chestnut, pine, birch or black poplar, among others. Although this fungus is not stuck to the roots of these trees, it is joined to them by a mycelium which acquires the necessary nutrients for them to grow properly.
They are ball-shaped, irregular, with a rough feel, variable in size and the colour of each specimen is linked to the variety of truffle, either black or white.
If you have ever wondered how to find truffles, you should know that truffles are found at a depth of approximately 20cm under the tree, so finding truffles requires the sense of smell of dogs that are specially trained for it, known as truffle dogs. Without them, it is almost impossible to pick this fungus at its correct time of ripeness for consumption.
Types of truffle and differences between them
Although there are different varieties of edible truffles, not all of them have the same culinary value. The most sought after are the black truffle or Périgord truffle,(Tuber melanosporum) and the white truffle or tartufo bianco d’Alba (Tuber magnatum). Below, we explain some of the differences between them.
- Location: while black truffles grow in some regions of Southern France, Italy and, in particular, Spain, white truffles only grow in Italy, in the region of Alba, and in Croatia in the region of Istria. Given that truffles are a hard-to-find fungus, it is even more difficult in the case of white truffles, which is reflected in their high market price.
- Season: the picking season of white truffles starts in September and ends in December, while black truffles are gathered during the winter months from November until March.
- Preservation: while white truffles only stay fresh for a few days, black truffles last longer and their consumption can be extended by cold storage (5 days), by freezing the product (1 year) and by being preserved.
- Preparation: while the tartufo bianco is usually eaten raw, the black truffle is more versatile in the kitchen and can be prepared in various ways, especially in sauces! For that reason, nowadays we can find various recipes with truffle, including, for example, cheese with truffle, chickpeas with truffle or pasta with truffle, and many other gourmet products.
- Taste: the flavour of the black truffle, like its aroma, is very characteristic. But its flavour, although intense, is more subtle than the white truffle, which has a spicier taste.
Where and how to find truffles in Spain
The most popular truffle in our country is the black truffle or Périgord truffle. Some of the regions of Spain in which we can find this precious delicacy are Castile and Leon, the towns of the north of the province of Castellon and the region of Aragon. The latter, during the coldest months of the year, becomes a truffle paradise for the bold who go in search of this precious delicacy. Would you like to discover the areas of these provinces which have the most truffles?
This region in the north east of Spain has become a black truffle paradise thanks to the fact that mountain regions offer excellent growing conditions for this valuable fungus. Although, in the past, truffles were picked naturally, many farmers in this region now focus their work on growing black or Périgord truffles due to the growing demand for such a valuable product. A great deal of work goes into this production given that a truffle plantation takes almost a decade to bear fruit and they require trained dogs to extract the fungi when they are ripe for picking.
In which regions of Aragon can you find black truffles?
- Teruel: the region of Jiloca, Cuencas Mineras, Campo Romanos, Sarrión, the mountain ranges of the regions of Gúdar (Javalambre) and Maestrazgo.
- Zaragoza: Cinco Villas and Moncayo.
- Huesca: Graus and La Jacetania (Jaca).
Of all of these regions, the province of Teruel has the best conditions for growing Tuber melanosporum; which is why the town of Sarrión is considered the Spanish black truffle capital and is where the International Truffle Fair, Fitruf is held.
2. Valencian Community
In the region of Maestrat, in Castellón, and very near to the province of Teruel, we can find the truffle hunter's Olympus. And it is under this beautiful mountain landscape and small towns with a Medieval feel that the true treasure of this area can be found, the black truffle or Tuber melanosporum.
In which regions of Castellón can you find black truffles?
- Towns of Alt Maestrat (Benassal, Vistavella, Atzeneta, Culla…), l’Alt Palància and the region of Els Ports.
Among these towns of Alt Maestrat, in Culla the Mostra de la Trufa Negra de l’Alt Maestrat Castelló, Route of Flavour takes place.
3. Castile and Leon
The weather and soil conditions of these diverse regions of Castile and Leon have made the land here suitable for growing black truffles. This represents a tourist attraction for this autonomous community and an injection of investment thanks to this alternative farming in the countryside.
In which regions of Castile and Leon can you find black truffles?
- Soria, Burgos, Valladolid, Segovia and, to a lesser extent, Palencia, León, Salamanca or Zamora.
Of all of these towns, Soria has the most mountainous land for growing this fungus, which benefits the region's tourism. It is here, in the town of Abejar, where the Feria de la Trufa de Soria (Soria’s Truffle Fair) takes place, which makes the town the international core of black gold.
How to find truffles
Although it is difficult to find truffles without the help of a truffle dog, there are some indications that can help us when it comes to finding this gourmet product. Make a note of them!
- The right time: the truffle season encompasses the winter months, from December to March.
- The right place: forest areas, at a certain height, reached by the sun and rocky ground with limy soils. Run away from puddles of water!
- Near to truffle growing trees: evergreen oak, holm oak, kermes oak, hazelnut, rockrose, savin or oak trees.
- Look at the ground: under truffle growing trees where this fungus has grown, we will usually be able to see burnt areas or glades where the grass hasn’t grown. If, in addition, the surface has some elevated areas or small cracks, you are bound to find a truffle underneath.
Now you know where and how to find truffles, do you want to discover this culinary treasure? Remember that, before hunting for wild truffles by yourself, you should check the legislation of the region you are in, as you need permission in some towns or a licence from the town hall.