A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber. Some of the truffle species are highly prized as food. French gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles "the diamond of the kitchen". Edible truffles are held in high esteem in French, Georgian, Greek, Italian, Middle Eastern and Spanish cooking, as well as in international haute cuisine. Truffles are ectomycorrhizal fungi and are therefore usually found in close association with the roots of trees. Spore dispersal is accomplished through fungivores, animals that eat fungi.
The "white truffle" or "trifola d'Alba Madonna" (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; in Italy it 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.
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.
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.
Summer or burgundy truffle
The black summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) is found across Europe and is prized for its culinary value. Burgundy truffles (Tuber uncinatum) are harvested in autumn until December and have aromatic flesh of a darker colour.
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 "Oregon white truffles", Tuber oregonense and Tuber gibbosum. 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".
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".
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