How many species of truffle are there?
Italy counts more than 25 species of truffle, but in accordance with the National regulation only 9 are legally picked and traded.
Tuscany has all the 9 species:

What is the truffle biological cycle?
The truffle is an hypogeous mushroom because it lives under the ground. It is a symbiote because it is closely related to a tree or a bush, with whom it exchanges nutritional substances, mainly water and minerals, and mycorrhizal because it produces the so-called mycorrhizae, that are responsible for the connection with the roots of the tree.
The biological cycle of truffles is not yet fully defined, but in principle it is possible to define a scheme thanks to the studies carried out on the Precious Black Truffle (Tuber melanosporum Vitt.):

  • The spores dispersed in soils, with favourable soil and Eco-climatic conditions, germinate.
  • From here the mycelium, which, in the presence of roots of suitable plants (symbiotic), joins these forming mycorrhizae.
  • Start a vegetative phase more or less long, until the truffle is ripe to fructify. Since then the mycelium forms the fruit or Carpophore (the ones that we collect), which contain the spores.
  • When the truffle is ripe smells strongly to attract animals (snails, invertebrates, wild boars, rodents etc.). They eat them, disperse the spores with the faeces, because the truffle can’t use the wind to perform this work like an epigeous mushroom.

Truffle Biological Cycle

Where are the truffles found?
The truffles need their perfect habitat to grow well. They live close, in real symbiosis, to trees or bushes (oaks, pines, poplars, hazelnuts, lindens, willows, etc) exchanging important nutritional substances for both.
How are the truffles found? Using a pig or a dog?
Even though many people still think with interest and curiosity that the truffle is hunted with the pig as in the old times, the help of a well trained dog is today the real and only chance to find this precious mushroom. The use of the pig is a very old practice, not just in use anymore but also illegal in Italy as considered very invasive for the truffle bed. It is in fact important to preserve the area of growth where this mushroom lives, using the “vanghetto” (little spade) to dig closely around and deep down just the necessary to grab the truffle, nicely covering back the hole.

For further information about the methods to find truffles read this article

How are the truffle dogs trained?
The training is similar to that used for drug or saving dogs. It starts when they are still small, already about 3/6 months old.
The dog has to take everything as a game, so it should never be forced to do anything.
Initially you do play it with truffles or small plastic perforated containers with inside the truffle. Proceeding with the weeks you increase the difficulty starting to bury them in the garden until you bring it directly in nature, preferably by accompanying an experienced dog, which it will emulate the behavior.
After each discovery should be rewarded with a small reward.

For a more detailed description, see this article

How do you collect truffles?
You need to pay attention and to respect some requirements when you’re searching for truffles in order to not ruin the environment. For example, stop as soon as possible the dog when he begin to dig the soil and use the proper tool (vanghino) to take off the truffle. In addition, the hole should be as small as possible and it is always recommended to close it when finished.

For more details about truffle picking read this article

What is the price of Truffle?
The price of the truffle is determined and influenced by many factors causing continuous oscillations, not only from year to year, but also in a short time. It follows the “law of supply and demand”, but with different variables.
The first factor to consider is the species, because the most valuable truffles arrive at the prices much higher than those so-called minors. First of all the seasonal trend of prices depends on climatic factors (rainfalls and temperatures), but not only. Specifically, the truffle, as fungus, needs water in the right time, and then, in the case of drought periods, there will subsequently be truffles lack. In addition to this, considering that several Italian regions produce truffles, a careful analysis of the market has pointed out that there are differences in price from one area to another.
There are differences in shape, colour, flavour and fragrance between the truffles of the same species depending on the environment in which they grew, evidently the climate and the soil are decisive. Furthermore, the most interesting part in the quotation of the truffle, is given by the activity of speculation made by the commercial traders, in other words you can think of a “stock market” with continuous fluctuations.
Also, it has been experienced the on line truffle exchanges, but the referenced price provided has often caused confusion, since in any website you need to understand at which stage (of the food chain) you are, in fact, it is understandable that from the first crop of the product by the truffle hunter to our tables (step by step) the price naturally increases.
How is the truffle conserved?
The fresh truffle can be conserved for a short period from its picking (from 4 to 20 days depending on how much it is ripe). Must keep it in the fridge (+3/+5) well wrapped in absorbent paper, placed in a closed glass jar or a plastic box. We advise changing the paper every 2/3 days even though the very best conservation way is to eat it immediately.

To know the various methods to preserve it read here

Has the truffle to be washed, cleaned or peeled before use?
The truffle grows under the ground and it must be cleaned before use.
We suggest to wash it with cold water and clean it with a little brush. It is not necessary to peel it as you can eat the rind as well (sometimes in the summer black truffle or in the black truffle is better to peel of the most protruding and pointed warts).
You can then slice it or grate it depending on the dish you are preparing.
How is the truffle used?
You can use the truffle as a seasoning on many different dishes but it is particularly good finely slices or grated fresh on first and second courses.
In order to enhance the aroma and the scent it can be lightly heat it up and melt it with butter or extra virgin olive oil.

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