Have you ever wondered about the various types of truffles and how they differ from one another? Maybe you've always wanted to be able to distinguish between them, but were too intimidated to ask anyone.
In this tutorial, we'll provide you with all the pertinent information. At your next gathering, you'll be able to dazzle your guests with your knowledge of all things truffle-related.
Winter Black Truffle
- Périgord Truffle
- The Black Diamond of Provence
- Tuber Melanosporum
The winter black truffle typically grows beneath poplar, hazelnut, oak, and chestnut elm trees. Its growing season runs from November through March, with January and February serving as the best months for harvesting.
Most foragers gather this delicacy from the forests of France, Spain, or Italy. Although each country may try to claim that its specimens are superior to the rest, there's actually no discernible difference. In some cases, certain regions may produce larger specimens based on the growing conditions, but this is based solely on outside circumstance.
Despite the name, the winter black truffle is usually dark grayish-brown in color. Each specimen weighs about 2 to 3 ounces on average. When you cut into the truffle, you may see thin white veins running throughout, which indicate maturity.
In terms of taste, the winter black truffle has an earthy flavor with hints of cocoa. This is a popular choice for chefs who want to use a flavorful truffle in a stew or sauce. As you'll come to learn, black truffles are delectable when cooked, while white ones are at their best when served raw.
Winter White Truffle
- Piedmont Truffle
- White Truffle From Alba
- Italian White Truffle
- Tuber Magatum Pico
When you see winter white truffles advertised as "Piedmont" or "Italian" or "from Alba," know that they're all the same species of fungi. The terms are used to indicate the region in which they're grown, but there's no other difference between them. Similarly, the only distinction between "summer white" and "winter white" truffles is the time of year in which they're harvested.
This particular specimen has a deep musky aroma and a sharp, almost garlicky flavor. The exterior is smooth and pale yellow in color. Though you may hear it referred to as an "Italian" truffle, it's also harvested in Croatia, as well as other European countries.
The intense bouquet of a winter white truffle will fade more rapidly than the scent of a black truffle. That's because these specimens harbor higher levels of gas, which is responsible for the pungent aroma. This is why white winter truffles are best when served raw—preferably shaved or thinly sliced over a dish that's already cooked.
Summer Black Truffle
- Truffe de la St. Jean
- Tuber Aestivum
Harvested from May through August, the summer black truffle is not quite as highly prized as its winter counterpart. Though it still has a delectable flavor, the fragrance is more subtle, which lessens its value in the eyes (or noses) of the experts.
On an aesthetic level, summer black truffles have much in common with the winter version. However, unlike white truffles, which are the same species no matter when they're harvested, these are a completely different breed of fungi. With their dark brown husks and rounded, knobby shape, they could almost be mistaken for their more pungent cousins. Once you cut them open, you'll see that the interior is a grayish yellow, with the same spidery veins as winter black truffles.
These truffles have a flavor reminiscent of chocolate, but again, the taste is more subtle than what you'd get from a white specimen. For this reason, they're often used in cooking.
Summer White Truffle
- Marzuili Truffleq
- Tuber Magnatum Pico
- Tuber Borchii
The summer white truffle has the same garlicky undertones as the winter specimen, with sweet undertones and a musky aroma. If you're looking specifically for a summer-harvested truffle, this is the one to seek out.
These truffles are harvested mainly in the Italian regions of Tuscany, Piedmont, and Marches. Because they're typically priced much lower than their winter counterparts, they're an excellent choice for the home chef.
Summer white truffles have the same smooth, yellowish-cream exterior as winter-harvested ones. The interior will be either yellow or brown with white veins, depending on maturity level. You can maximize the flavor and fragrance of summer white truffles by shaving them over prepared dishes, such as creamy risottos, roasted asparagus spears, and grilled steaks.
Chinese Black Truffle
- Himalayan Truffle
- Tuber indicum
- Tuber sensiese
One of the two main varieties of Asian truffle, the Chinese Black truffle grows beneath conifers (such as pine) in Tibet, Nepal, and Bhutan. It also sprouts up in a few provinces in China, hence the name.
You might find these labeled as winter black truffles, and indeed they tend to be black in color inside and out, with a knobby exterior. Webbed veins may appear on the interior late in the season, which usually runs from October to February. These are smaller than most European-harvested truffles--about the size of a walnut.
- Black Kame
- Brown Kame
- Desert Truffle
- Terfezia bouderi
The second of the Asian truffle varietals, the Terfez hails from North Africa and the Middle East. It's often called the desert truffle, and with good reason--it actually grows beneath the desert sand, and is harvested after intense rainfalls.
Terfez truffles are collected more frequently than any other truffle, which means they're the least rare. They're also very high in protein, and often prepared with couscous (another regional specialty). These truffles are lighter in color than most of their counterparts, with an intense fragrance. Their harvest season runs from December to early April.