The black truffle or black Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum), the second-most commercially valuable species, is named after the Périgord region in France and grows with oak and hazelnut trees. Black truffles are harvested in late autumn and winter. The genome sequence of the black truffle was published in March 2010.
Summer or Burgundy Truffle
The black summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) is found across Europe and is prized for its culinary value. Burgundy truffles (designated Tuber uncinatum, but the same species) are harvested in autumn until December and have aromatic flesh of a darker colour.
The “white truffle” or “trifola d’Alba Madonna” (“Truffle of the White Mother” in Italian) (Tuber magnatum) is found mainly in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti, Acqualagna, in the northern part of Le Marchenear Urbino, is another renowned center for the production and commercialization of white truffles and the annual festival is one of the most important in Italy.
White truffles can also be found in Molise, Abruzzo and in the hills around San Miniato, in Tuscany. It is also found on the Istria peninsula, in Croatia in the Motovun forest along the Mirna river, and in Slovenia along the Dragonja and Rizana river, as well as in the Drome area in France.
Growing symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech and fruiting in autumn, they can reach 12 cm (5 in) diameter and 500 g, though are usually much smaller. The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling. Italian white truffles are very highly esteemed and are the most valuable on the market: The white truffle market in Alba is busiest in the months of October and November when the Fiera del Tartufo (truffle fair) takes place. In 2001, the Tuber magnatum truffles sold for between $1000–$2200 per pound ($2000–$4500 per kg); as of December 2009 they were being sold at $14,203.50 per kilogram.
In 1999, one of the largest truffles in the world was found near Buje, Croatia. The truffle weighed 1.31 kilograms (2 lb 14 oz) and has entered the Guinness Book of Records.
The record price paid for a single white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid $330,000 (£165,000) for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb), discovered by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco. One of the largest truffles found in decades, it was unearthed near Pisa, Italy, and sold at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong, and Florence. This record was then matched on November 27, 2010, when Ho again paid $330,000 for a pair of white truffles, including one weighing nearly a kilogram.
In December 2014, a White Alba’s Truffle weighing in at 4.16 pounds or 1.89 kilos was unearthed in the Umbrian region of Italy by the Balestra Family of Sabatino. It was auctioned at Sotheby’s in New York. While some had expected it to sell for $1 million, it was sold for $61,000 to a Taiwanese buyer.
A variety of white truffle (Tuber magnatum pico) is found in other parts of northern and central Italy, but is not as aromatic as those from Piedmont.
The “whitish truffle” (Tuber borchii) is a similar species found in Tuscany, Abruzzo, Romagna, Umbria, the Marche and Molise. It is not as aromatic as those from Piedmont, although those from Città di Castello come quite close.
A less common truffle is “garlic truffle” (Tuber macrosporum). In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, several species of truffle are harvested both recreationally and commercially, most notably, the Leucangium carthusianum, “Oregon Black truffle”, Tuber gibbosum, “Oregon spring white”, and Tuber oregonense, the “Oregon winter white truffle”. Kalapooya Brunea, the “Oregon Brown Truffle”, has also been commercially harvested and is of culinary note.
The pecan truffle (Tuber lyonii) syn. Texense is found in the Southern United States, usually associated with pecan trees. Chefs who have experimented with them agree “they are very good and have potential as a food commodity”. Although pecan farmers used to find them along with pecans and discard them, considering them a nuisance, they sell for about $160 a pound and have been used in some gourmet restaurants.
The term “truffle” has been applied to several other genera of similar underground fungi. The genera Terfezia and Tirmania of the family Terfeziaceae are known as the “desert truffles” of Africa and the Middle East. “Hart’s truffle” is a name for Elaphomycetaceae. Pisolithus tinctorius, which was historically eaten in parts of Germany, is sometimes called “Bohemian truffle”.