Tips: How to Selecting and Buying Truffles

Oct 13, 2011
Nina L. Palmer

Black Truffles - White Truffles Recipes - Buy Black Truffles - Truffle Prices

As soon as the holiday season starts, the “Tuber Melanosporum” rears its head in the markets. However it’s better to be careful before purchasing truffles, either fresh or canned, as it is very easy to make mistakes.

The truffle… a name that inevitably make foodies salivate. In 1848, Brillat-Savarin wrote about truffles in his famous Physiology of Taste, speaking in terms of erotic pleasures ; pleasures that are however not accessible to all budgets. Just like everything rare, the precious tuber is expensive, very expensive. Secret deals, codified practices, and reserved access for insiders are common in the Southwest of French truffle markets.

A truffle can hide a truffle

First, there are truffles, and there is the truffle. From the 27 varieties identified to date, only seven are authorized for public sale. Not all have the same value on the market. The most common are the summer truffle (“Tuber aestivum”), the beige flesh when ripe, the “Tuber incinatum,” “Tuber mesentericum” truffles or  brumale (“Tuber brumale “).

But the real “black diamond” is the famous black truffle (“Tuber melanosporum”), by far the most popular among gourmets and on its way to the mainstream market. Certainly each of these varieties has its taste, smell (and its season), but never match the power and subtlety of the “melano”! Consequently, their prices can vary from one to four depending on the variety presented.

1. There are several commercial species during the Christmas season when there are more black truffles: the melano (Tubermelanosporum) and the brumale (Tuber brumale) with white veins slightly larger and the peridium, which is easily removed when scratched with a fingernail. Some years the melanogaster is not yet ripe for the holidays.

2 . For those who also like the varieties of fall truffles as uncinatum (Tuber uncinatum) or mesentetric (Tuber mesentericum), it is more difficult to find them during the holidays as it is a truffle with an optimal maturity between October and December.

3. In any case a truffle should be perfumed. It is sometimes difficult to identify odors depending on the species when we are not used to them. It should at least have a pleasant scent of forest mushroom and humus.

4. The black truffle should be sold clean, although the presence of soil may improve the conservation a bit as earth stuck on the truffle sometimes hides surprises. They are presented canified or cut, which allows you to clearly identify the white and black veins (for melanosis and brumale),  as well as white veins and brown veins (for uncinatum and mesentericum). If there are no seams at all, there is a problem (often a sudden freezing). Basically, they are not bad, but cannot be well marketed.

5. A truffle which is white on the inside is not necessarily a white truffle! But a truffle that is not ripe! Do not buy truffles that are immature. In general, market sellers are serious and you should not find immature truffles on markets. Reserve the “white truffle” term for the Alba truffle (Tuber magnatum).

6. The truffle should be solid, very firm to the touch. It keeps one to two weeks in the fridge (between 4-8 ° C). Put it in an airtight container with eggs, and be sure to control moisture.

7 . Before getting them on your plate, truffles have been sorted and re-sorted by producers and retailers. There is a lot of waste, so the price is high. There is a big price difference between the harvest, markets, and direct sales shop. Since they’re perishable and fragile, the prices sometimes seem high, but they are also due to losses that mark the stages of marketing. Know that it is rare to buy a kilo of truffles at once ; an average of 10-20 g of truffles is often enough for most people, at a reasonable cost, for the pleasure of tasting the black gastronomical diamond.

8.  There is absolutely no difference in taste between a so-called wild truffle or grown truffle. Producers don’t add fertilizer and pesticides because most insects have an important role in the development cycle and maturity of truffles.

9.  The truffle is a rare Christmas product that doesn’t undergo the process of industrialization or the heavy conditions of mass production. We are not speaking of organic truffles, as they grow in nature without the addition of artificial products. It’s a real natural product, therefore it is difficult to find them in supermarkets (that is one reason why it will favor the sale of truffles from China).

10.  In regards to truffles from China, vigiliance is required! Unfortunately, I do not know how to distinguish the truffles from China from the melano, and it is not practical to walk with a microscope.

photo by :KimonBerlin

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