When we think about the word truffle, we all connect it to a delicious pulpy tuber, fragrant and tasty, and to a superb meal with excellent wines.
For scientists it just represents the "fruttification apparatus of heterotrophic hypogean fungi”. Ancient philosophers and historians considered it as a constant object of curiosity. The tuber has also been at the core of disputations and hypothesis among well-known thinkers like Savonarola. In those pages we have compared several opinions about the truffle, from biologists, naturalists, historians and anthropologists, in order to give you a first image of this excellent product, starting from its environment and ending with its reproduction and picking.
The term truffle is related to all hypogean fungi that belong to the order of tuberales (class of Ascomycetes).
Composed of mineral salts absorbed from the ground by the roots of the tree it lives in symbiosis with and of water in a high percentage, the truffle consists of a pulpy body, called “gleba”, covered by a cortical involucre called “perizio”, that can have a smooth or tubercular surface of different colours, that range from white to dark brown to black. It is in the fertile parts of the GLEBA (the darker ones, marked by the lighter and sterile ones) that the reproductive spores ripe. The whitish mold (mycelium), that is composed of thousands of filaments extremely thin (hyphas) lives underground and blends to the tiny roots of several forest trees and plants, giving birth to a particular symbiosis called mycorrhiza. The truffle, being an heterotrophic organism, feeds on organic substances that it takes from a bigger tree or plant, creating with it a relationship of reciprocal benefit. In special environmental conditions, at depths ranging from 40 to 50 cm, the mycelium gives birth to either tubercular-shaped or globular or irregular fructiferous bodies whose sizes range from about 1 to 15 cm. There are dozens of different species, and about thirty of them reproduce in Europe.
However, the most excellent species only reproduce in limited areas. Among the most popularones, we find: “Magnatum pico”, commonly known as white truffle, “Melanosporum Vitt”, commonly known as black truffle, "Albidum", commonly known as bianchetto, “Aestivum”, commonly known as Scorzone or Summer black truffle, and “Brumale”, commonly known as Winter black truffle. Colour, flavour and taste in truffles are determined by the trees the truffles feed on to grow. For example, truffles that grow in the areas of oaks will have a strong flavour, while those that grow in the areas of lindens will be lighter in colour and more aromatic. Their shape, instead, depends on the kind of ground: if it is soft, the truffle will have a smoother surface; if it is solid, it will have a knotty and lumpy surface, due to its difficulty in expanding underground. Legge 16 Dicembre 1985, n. 752