What are black truffles?
Behind their rugged and often deformed appearance, lies one of the most appreciated gastronomic delicacies. The Perigord truffle, better known as the black truffle or by its scientific name of Tuber Melanosporum, is also one of the most sought-after foods in existence. Its intense taste and aroma are its main hallmarks.
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The black truffle is known as the diamond of the kitchen or the black gold of gastronomy because of its powerful and subtle aroma and because it can reach astronomical prices on the market. This fungus begins life underground in limestone and stony soils, next to the roots of oaks, holm oaks or hazelnuts, in areas with a mountainous climate. The forests of southern France, Italy and Spain are its natural habitat.
In our country, Teruel is truffle paradise par excellence. It is the province of Spain where the greatest amount of wild black truffle is found and where the black winter truffle is most cultivated. Other areas, such as the north of Castellón, Soria, Huesca, Navarra or Girona also produce this delicacy, but to a lesser extent. Its high price is another of its characteristics. Although this can vary greatly, depending on production during that particular year, the price is around 600 euros per kilo. A truffle similar in size to a golf ball usually costs about 50 euros.
The black truffle has small warts on the outside where the earth accumulates, while inside, its black flesh is pierced by fine ivory veins. To clean it, it is advisable to use cold water and a small brush to avoid damaging it. Dry it well with a paper towel and keep it in the fridge wrapped in a cloth or absorbent paper. As it needs to breathe, it should not be kept hermetically sealed, otherwise it may easily rot. Now that it is winter, this is the best time for truffles. From December to March is the optimum time for harvesting, although production varies greatly each year due to the weather. Once harvested, they should be consumed within a maximum of 10 days, although they can also be frozen whole or in slices. The black truffle is available all year round dried or preserved.
Properties of the black truffle
The truffle has a nutritional content similar to that of mushrooms. It is a fungus rich in minerals and vitamins, mainly potassium, phosphorus, iodine, selenium, iron, calcium, magnesium and sulphur. As far as vitamins are concerned, their content in vitamin C and in the B vitamins (with higher amounts of B2, B3 and B9) is notable.
Truffles also provide us with fibre and vegetable proteins. In addition, they are low in carbohydrates and have virtually no fat. As a food, they contain a lot of water and their calorific contribution is around 30 kcal per 100 grams.
Due to their composition, the consumption of black truffle favours the circulatory system and prevents the risk of heart disease, improves the functioning of muscle and nerve tissues and combats anaemia. It also has numerous benefits related to skin and nail regeneration, as well as hair growth. In addition, it has strong antioxidant properties, which fight skin aging (so much so that it has come to be considered as a natural botox) and it has a whitening effect that helps eliminate sun spots.
Differences between black truffle and white truffle
There are two types of truffle, the black truffle and the white truffle. The black truffle is more widespread and can also be cultivated, while the white truffle can only be found in the wild and, due to its scarcity, it commands a much higher price than the black truffle.
The white truffle is only harvested during the autumn months, specifically between October and December, and grows in the Italian Piedmont region.
How do you find and collect black truffles?
It is not easy to find and collect this type of fungus. Trained dogs are used to find truffles that grow underground. In the old days, pigs were used. The truffles release a substance that prevents the growth of grass around them, that is one of the signs that indicates that one of the specimens of black gold may be hiding in that area. A truffle machete is use to dig into the ground without breaking the fungus. It seems that they are frequently found in areas where vines have been previously cultivated, especially in places where there are rotten vines, and they are also found in areas where olive trees have been cultivated. However, the harvesting of this fungus remains a mystery.
Recipes with black truffle
The black truffle has an intense aroma and taste, so it is used in small quantities. There are many recipes to which you can add a touch of truffle.
- Cut into thin slices on a fried egg
- Grated on pasta is delicious.
- You can also appreciate all its flavour on toasted bread with oil or butter.
Tuber Melanosporum is usually used in the preparation of sauces, although in recent years, the use of the fungus has been expanding and we can find it in cheeses, potato crisps and even honey and sweets.