In the genus tuber, the truffle has ancient origins from only a handful of Italian regions. To ascertain it’s origin, it is necessary to distinguish the Italian truffle into two different types: the white truffle and the black truffle.
The first, the white truffle, originates from pockets of Piedmont (Langhe, Monferrato, Roero and Asti), in particular the city of Alba. This city has even been named the capital of the white truffle. Meanwhile the black truffle, also called “Nero di Norcia” is perfectly suited to the growing conditions of central Italy. It is indeed where the black truffle continues to be collected and prepared for fine dining in Italy and beyond.
The harvest period of the truffle depends entirely according to its type. The prized white truffle is harvested from the beginning of October to the end of December while the black truffle is harvested from mid-November to mid-March. There are other truffle variants that are ripe and ready to be collected at different times of the year.
Some of the best known examples of truffle variants include the black summer truffle, locally called Scorzone which is harvested from the beginning of June until the end of August and then for a second time from the beginning of October. Then there is also the black winter truffle, named Black Trifola, which is available from the beginning of January to mid-March.
After harvesting, it is crucial that the truffle undergoes a cleaning process, removing the compact layer of soil from the product without altering the pungency. Once cleaned, the truffle is ready for market. The product can be preserved as flakes or made into truffle grounds (the latter of which is widely used as a base for preparing sauces or soups).
Freezing is another method of preserving the precious truffle which does not affect it’s unique aromatic characteristics. After washing, the product is dried and placed in a vacuum. It is then frozen in a blast chiller at a temperature of -40°C and stored at a constant -20/-22°C.
Uses in the Kitchen
The truffle is a sought-after ingredient by leading chefs all over the world. There are various uses of this product within the kitchen, in particular the white truffle is used exclusively raw to season and garnish risotto, tagliolini (a type of pasta), meat and eggs.
Cooking the truffle tends to vary the taste and leads to significantly reducing the unique flavour. It is a very delicate product, therefore it is recommended to be served raw after having cut it into thin strips. In this manner, the white truffle is considered the main focus of the dish.
However, the black truffle can be served both raw and cooked. Many experts believe that the black truffle reveals its characteristics more potently when cooked. For this reason it is widely used in the fillings of ravioli and tortelli and for the bases of sauces and creams.
Import-Export: The Truffles’ Fame Abroad
Although considered a niche Italian product, the growing exports show that the truffle is in great demand abroad. It’s prestige is steadily growing beyond Italian borders.
For example, Asian countries along with Hong Kong, buy both fresh and preserved Italian products. Scrutinising both the standard of truffle and appearance, it is therefore fundamental that packaging is of high quality to succeed in the Asian market.
The American market also continues to grow. Initially, fresh truffles appealed to the United States but over time other truffle-based products, such as the “Truffle Grill” (Truffle sauce) has become the focus of consumer attention.
Italian Truffle Producers: how to import italian truffles
It is possible to find Italian truffle producers and detailed information about truffle based products in the Italian Food Marketplace. The marketplace is a B2B e-commerce platform, open to producers and international buyers, such as importers, food distributors, food-service industry, wholesalers and retail chains.