The life cycle

When the right conditions of moisture and temperature are created the mushroom produces the fruit bodies. Truffles are for all practical purposes the “fruit” of the mushroom and inside they contain the spores, through which the mushroom propagates.

Truffles are formed by an outer wall called peridium which can be smooth and light coloured, as in the case of the prized white truffle or dark and with wart-like features, as in the case of the summer Scorzone. Inside the truffle is the gleba which contains the spores.

The colour can also vary from white to hazelnut brown or to purplish black depending on the species. In suitable conditions the spores are able to produce a new mycelium.

It will coat the root tips, guaranteeing reproduction of the mushroom.

Living totally underground these mushrooms have had to develop a strategy which would allow the spores to spread as much as possible, increasing the probabilities that some would find themselves in the suitable conditions to germinate.

It is here that the intense perfume emitted by the truffles plays an essential role.

It is no coincidence that we are attracted in an almost irresistible way and, like us, dogs, foxes, mice and moles, to finish with different species of insects… The truffle “wants” to be eaten because this is how it spreads its spores throughout the environment.

The species of Truffle

In Italy there are 9 species of edible truffles; those listed below are the most important:

*Tuber Magnatum Pico (White truffle of Alba or of Acqualagna or prized white)

The best known truffle. It is distinguished by its intense and fragrant perfume, the white more or less yellowish peridium, the light coloured gleba which can turn hazelnut when ripe, rarely with pinkish variegations. It should be noted that each single plant tends to produce truffles with its own colour properties. It ripens from September to January.

Tuber Magnatum Pico

*Tuber Melanosporum Vitt. (Black truffle of Norcia or prized black or sweet black)

The prized black truffle is the most consumed truffle in the world. It is the black truffle which is widespread in France and often cultivated in plantations of mycorrhizal trees. It has a delicate perfume with fruity notes, black or brown peridium with evident wart-like features, dark black purple gleba. It ripens from November to late March.

Tuber Melanosporum Vitt.

*Tuber Aestivum Vitt. (Scorzone black truffle)

One of the most widespread truffles in Europe, since it adapts well to different climates and soils. It is an excellent truffle which varies in the organoleptic characteristics depending on the harvesting period. It ripens from May to November and the perfume grows in intensity as the colder season arrives. It has a rough peridium, with highly pronounced wart-like features, hence the name, and the light hazelnut coloured gleba. This truffle can also be grown in specialist plantations.

Tuber Aestivum Vitt.

*Tuber Macrosporum Vitt. (Smooth black)

The smooth black variety is one of the best truffles in Italy but it is also one of the most neglected, though its organoleptic properties are excellent and often superior to the other black and better known truffles. Perhaps it is a little forgotten becouse its ripening period coincides with that of the prized white truffle. It has a black granular peridium, no wart-like features, light brown gleba. It grows in the same environments of the prized white truffle.

Tuber Macrosporum Vitt.

*Tuber borchii Vitt. (Bianchetto white or Marzuolo white)

The bianchetto is a good truffle with a very pronounced odour, perhaps one of the most intense of all edible truffles. For this reason it is considered a minor species compared to the prized white truffle. It has a smooth white peridium and light brown or pinkish gleba. It ripens in early spring, from February to May and is quite common in Italy, being rather adaptable like the Scorzone. It is used extensively in the canning industry, thanks to its aroma which persists despite the processing activities.

Tuber borchii Vitt.

*Tuber Brumale Vitt. (Winter black or Muscat black)

Characteristic truffle of hazelnut groves in Piedmont, it is distinguished from the other species for its perfume which is not always pleasant. It varies greatly from one harvest zone to the next. It has a black peridium with small wart-like features, light brown gleba. The good specimens are suitable for cooking with hot dishes.

Tuber Brumale Vitt.

Host plants

Each species of truffle has its own plant species with which it can enter into symbiosis.

Prized white:

Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Downy oak (Quercus pubescens), Black poplar (Populus nigra) and hybrids, White poplar (Populus alba), Common aspen (Populus tremula), Pussy-willow (Salix caprea), White willow (Salix alba), Common Osier (Salix viminalis), large and small-leaved linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, hybrids), Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), common hazel (Corylus avellana)

Prized black:

Downy oak (Quercus pubescens), Durmast oak (Quercus petraea) Holm-oak (Quercus ilex), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Linden (hybrids), common hazel (Corylus avellana), Cistus (Cistus spp.)

Scorzone:

Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Downy oak (Quercus pubescens), large and small-leaved linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, hybrids), Common hazel (Corylus avellana), Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus)

Smooth black:

Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Downy oak (Quercus pubescens), common hazel (Corylus avellana), Black poplar (Populus nigra) and hybrids, White poplar (Populus alba), common aspen (Populus tremula), large and small-leaved linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, hybrids)

Bianchetto:

Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Downy oak (Quercus pubescens), Black poplar (Populus nigra) and hybrids, White poplar (Populus alba),common aspen (Populus tremula), pussy willow (Salix caprea), white willow (Salix alba), common osier (Salix viminalis), large and small-leaved linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, hybrids), Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), common hazel (Corylus avellana)

Winter black:

Pedunculate oak (Quercus robur), Turkey oak (Quercus cerris), Downy oak (Quercus pubescens), large and small-leaved linden (Tilia platyphyllos, T. cordata, hybrids), Hop-hornbeam (Ostrya carpinifolia), common hazel (Corylus avellana)