WHAT IS A WHITE TRUFFLE?
This type of fungus is the lesser known sibling of the famous black truffle. Commercially hardwood trees like Beech, Birch, Pine and Oak will have their roots infused with truffle spores and are then planted in orchards. Their branches create a canopy of shade that encourages fungal growth. Traditionally the white truffle is associated with the Piedmont and Alba regions of Italy. While global demand for their black cousins has surged, white truffles are less available and so still somewhat more authentic in terms of region of origin. Recently the Istrian peninsula of Croatia has started to give the Italians a run for their money as a source of top quality white truffles. In Istria many natives still speak Italian as their first language (there’s that history thing again, I had no idea it used to be a part of Italy).
WHY ARE WHITE TRUFFLES GOOD FOR YOU?
So as a part of the fungal family, white truffles share many of the same health benefits in terms of vitamins, immune system, rumored anti-cancer properties, etc. Due to their potency, they are also rumored to be an aphrodisiac. How much this has to do with their high price, and how much with their aroma is a matter of debate. Do only sexy, young people drive Lamborghinis? Ehh, not so much.
WHEN ARE WHITE TRUFFLES IN SEASON?
Predominantly end of the year but with so much cultivation internationally, they are becoming easier to find year-round.
HOW SHOULD WHITE TRUFFLES BE STORED?
These suckers are REALLY potent. That is one of the main reasons why they are so expensive. A little bit of white truffle will go a long way. An ideal way to store them is to pat them dry and store them in your refrigerator. One trick that some Michelin star restaurants use is to store their fresh truffles in a sealed glass jar with a bunch of raw eggs (unbroken). Their shells are porous. Gradually the white truffles will infuse the yolk and white with a potent aroma over 1 to 2 days. Truffles need to breathe so you can’t do this for too long. Then you take the entire truffle out, use it for something else, but charge your customers more for “truffle” omelets. Hey, you gotta pay the rent somehow!
SO WHEN YOU SAY EXPENSIVE, WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Well, in 2014 a white truffle in Italy was discovered that weighed 4.16 pounds. When you start seeing people use decimal places, you know “feces” is getting real! Buyers from China at one point bid $1 million U.S. for what is essentially a big, white, underground mushroom.