|Truffles are renowned for their exotic taste and intoxicating aroma, but it is important for truffle shoppers to understand the various types of truffles on the market. There are a large number of truffles on the market, and not all of them will be equally flavorful or palatable. To get the most for your money you will need to know what makes a great truffle, and you will need to know how to seek out those special qualities when you go shopping.
Black Diamond Truffles
The black diamond truffle is the most highly sought after fresh truffle in the world, and the price of this tasty treat is often quite high as a result. The black diamond truffle is grown and harvested in a number of different countries, including Spain, France and Italy. Although each country will deny it, there is generally not a large difference in quality between truffles grown in one country versus another, so it is best to shop on the basis of size and season instead of country of origin.
The peak season for black diamond truffles are the months of January and February, although truffles grown throughout the winter should still be of excellent quality. Winter truffles are generally superior in quality to those grown during the warmer summer months, and fresh truffles tend to have a much better taste and aroma than preserved varieties.
Winter White Truffles
The winter white truffle goes by a number of different names, including Italian white truffles and Piedmont truffles. The winter white truffle is known for its unique flavor, with a strong infusion of garlic. These winter white truffles are also distinguished by their intense musky aroma, and shoppers should look for this strong scent as they are selecting their truffles.
Keep in mind that white truffles are not truly white – in fact they will be more of a yellowish color. The best winter white truffles will also have a smooth exterior, so it is important to examine each one carefully. And although fresh white truffles do have a strong aroma, that aroma tends to fade more quickly than with black truffles, so it is important to use those fresh truffles as quickly as possible after they have been selected.
Summer Black Truffles
Winter is the high season for harvesting truffles, and those truffles are the most highly sought after in the culinary world. Even so, summer black truffles still have their place, and these fresh truffles can be a wonderful addition to many different recipes. Whether you prefer Italian truffles or French truffles, summer black truffles can be an affordable and highly palatable choice.
The season for these summer black truffles generally starts in May and runs through the end of August, so if you are shopping for fresh truffles during those months you are likely to encounter summer black truffles on your gourmet food excursions. The summer black truffle will have a subtle but still quite pleasant aroma, and that aroma will really come out during cooking.
Summer White Truffles
Many chefs prefer the flavor and the aroma of the summer white truffle to the summer black variety. These white truffles are widely grown in Italy, so finding Italian truffles during the summer should not be much of a challenge. . French truffles are widely available during the summer season as well, and these summer white truffles can be an excellent choice for many different dishes.
White truffles, including the summer variety of fresh truffles, are best served shaved or sliced over dishes that have already been cooked, rather than serving as an ingredient during cooking. Shaving or slicing the white truffles and serving them over the meal is the best way to bring out the delicate but heady aroma of these fresh truffles.
Although most people think of Europe when they think of truffles, a few unlikely countries are getting into the truffle growing business. One such country is Australia, and in recent years Australian truffles have been making strong inroads into what has historically been a purely European marketplace.
These Australian truffles are grown at the roots of oak trees in the Australian countryside, and instead of the traditional boars, specially trained dogs are used to sniff them out and help their human companions with the harvest. While most Australian grown truffles are used for domestic consumption, there is a growing export business, so gourmets should keep an eye out for this treat from down under.
Unlike other types of truffles, which all use the same mushroom, truffles marketed as Asian truffles use different varieties of mushrooms. While there are many varieties, the most common is the Chinese black truffle.
Many gourmets claim that the Chinese black truffle is similar in quality and flavor to similarly sized French and Italian truffles. Other gourmets disagree, claiming that the quality of a good winter Asian truffle is similar to that of the less desirable summer black truffles from Italy and France. The only way to know for sure is to grab a few of these beauties at your local market and use them in your favorite recipe.