Generalitа


Truffles are certainly among the most famous, most expensive and most sought-after mushrooms in Italy. Adored by those who love eating delicacies, the object of the desire of budding chefs, professionals or simple enthusiasts, the hidden dream of every mushroom seeker, the truffle has over the years created a real economic induced. The pride of municipalities like Norcia, Spoleto (famous for the black truffle) and Alba (white truffle) which owe their fame internationally to this "tuber", has become over the years a symbol and a product that has created much work in the field of trade, agriculture and tourism. Truffles, of different types and qualities, are widespread in a vast area of ​​temperate climate in southern Europe (Portugal, Spain, lower France up to Slovenia) but we see better the main types of these mushrooms.

Truffle species



The Truffles are divided into two main families: the Tuberaceae, which includes all the species used in the feeding field, and the Terfeziaceae. They are hypogeal fungi, that is, they grow under the ground, and they make mycorrhizal symbiosis with certain plants. The two most famous types of truffle are undoubtedly the black truffle (Tuber melansporum) and the white truffle (Tuber magnatum pico).
The black truffle has a spherical, often irregular spherical shape and is covered with warts. The gleba (the meat of truffles, the inside) is firm, first clear and then bluish. The scent is very strong and aromatic (many people recognize the smell of truffle as something similar to the smell of methane). Much used in the kitchen and in the food industry, it is better cooked. Certainly less expensive and prized than the white truffle, we find it in the hilly and low mountain areas under trees such as hazel, oak and oak in open, sunny areas. The black truffle, unlike the white is cultivable and in the areas around where it grows the vegetation is scarce due to the action of the mycelium.
The white truffle, on the other hand, is considered the truffle par excellence and grows only in particular soils with particular conditions: soft, moist soil, rich in calcium and with a good air circulation. Renamed as Tartufo d'Alba, it grows very well in different areas of Piedmont (Monferrato and Langhe in particular) but can also be found in southern France and central Italy. It is also globose, has a smooth external surface and an unmistakable glebe: white and yellow-gray with white veins. The trees under which the white truffle can be found are the oaks, the linden trees, the poplars and the willows. In the kitchen it is usually eaten raw, sliced ​​and with simple dishes that enhance the unique and excellent flavor of the truffle.
Other edible truffles
In addition to the truffles mentioned there are others less famous but equally edible and appreciable such as the bianchetto truffle (Tuber borchii), the summer truffle (Tuber aestivum), the black winter truffle (Tuber brumale), the smooth black truffle (Tuber macrosporum) and the truffles of Bagnoli (Tuber mesentericum).
In the long list of black truffles we must also mention the non-edible types, specifying that it is not so much the toxicity of these tubers as the strong odor that they give off to make them unpleasant (combined with their hardness). Tuber rufum, Tuber foetidum, Tuber excavatum and Tuber ferrugineum are the main species we do not recommend harvesting.

Collection period



The harvest, which to tell the truth is a search rather than a collection, takes place from December to March for the black truffle and from September to December for the white truffle and takes place exploiting the collaboration of dogs. The most indicated breeds are the Romagna Lagotto, the Border Collie and the Italian Spinone although the smell of the truffle is so strong that any type of dog, if properly trained, is able to become a good truffle dog. The harvesting operation must not be carried out with spades, hoes and other bulky tools: it would ruin the ground and the underground hyphae of the fungus. So just arm yourself with a simple little zappino with which we will move the earth above the mycelium trying not to ruin the roots of the plant and truffle. A tip: if you don't have a dog more than trained, stop him in time after he has found the fungus, so you will avoid a big regret. It is very important to know that the truffle spores remain viable for a period of over two years and therefore it may be a good idea to bring back the remains of the truffles used in the place of collection or in other truffle areas. By doing so you will increase the presence of spores and therefore the chances of mushroom growth. Don't forget to throw a handful of soil over the abandoned waste.
A record truffle
A truly enormous truffle, a 2.5 kg white truffle, was found by Giacomo Morra in Alba in 1954. The famous Piedmontese truffle-maker donated the incredible specimen to the then American president Truman.

Black truffle



The black truffle can be grown in special plants called truffle cultivation based on the artificial planting of mycorrhized seedlings.
Plant design
Before making any small investment, check the suitability of the soil, which must have indicatively: little skeleton, fine texture, pH between 7 and 8 and organic matter around 3-5%. The soil must be fresh, slightly evolved and without water stagnation. The calcareous and alkaline soils tend to be better. Once you have checked whether your soil is suitable, you can proceed with the preparation of the plant, preferably during the summer. To learn about the chemical and physical composition of the soil, you can contact a specialized laboratory. However, if your soil is not "ideal" do not despair: you can always try to grow a less valuable variety of truffles. In fact, less valuable varieties also have lower requirements and greater adaptability. First of all, make a nice trimming of the area and a rather deep plowing (30-40 cm). Lazy people can alternatively make 40x40x40 holes at the point where they are going to plant. A very important thing is to always think before acting: when designing the sixth plant, make a functional choice of the type of tools you plan to use. For systems of a certain size it will be more convenient to leave more space between the rows to be able to pass with the vehicles. The plants are then protected with a shelter (polycarbonate perimeter covers) to prevent damage from frost, early frosts and wild animals. The area around the plant's collar should be kept free from weeds to help the seedling grow. In this regard, if you do not want to do occasional bush clearing operations, you should mulch with suitable material such as bark flakes. In preparation, also consider the irrigation methods of your cultivation. Drip irrigation (low-pressure hoses with drippers attached, or simple pierced pipes) can go well: it will allow you to save water and time but will clutter the ground. An alternative can be the use of sprayers that will have a greater and more uniform water emission or the simple but laborious manual intervention. If you intend to create a plant of some ranks it is better to introduce in the rows variety with different precocity. In a row, varieties are earlier but less productive and in the other variety more slow to start production but more productive.
The best time to plant the seedlings is autumn, a season that offers more stable and less fluctuating weather conditions than spring.

Collection


Once the mycorrhizal plants have been bought, they must be moistened before they are removed from the jar to prevent them from falling off the ground and to facilitate the operation. The earth bread should be placed centrally in the hole a little below the ground level (5 cm) and then it should be covered with earth up to the height of the collar. Always place a brace to prevent the plant from growing crooked but staying slightly away from the collar to avoid ruining the roots.
To get the first results you will have to wait from 6 to 10 years depending on the variety you used to make the mycorrhizal symbiosis while the full harvest period will start between 12 and 15 years.

Truffles: Diseases



If we take into consideration the environmental characteristics, the factors that most influence the growth of the truffle are rain, wind, drought and frost. A good vintage of truffles is usually characterized by frequent spring rains alternated with sunny days. The wind is an enemy of truffles in that it removes moisture from the ground and less deep truffles. Clearly since the mushrooms are made up of more than 90% water, in a dry year the harvest will be very thin (without irrigation). Even the animals are not indifferent to the goodness of this fungus and in fact there are several possible predators: wild boars, badgers, porcupines, snails, dormice, mice and roe deer.
The health of the fungus is closely related to the health of the symbiont plant and therefore attacks of the processionary, of the beetles or of other insects to the plant end up also affecting the fungus.
Finally, there are shrubby plants and fungi which, if found near the symbiont plant, can counteract the formation of the fungus. Among the plants we remember the artemisia, the calluna, the cicuta.
Pruning of symbiont plants
Pruning must be aimed at recreating the ideal, most natural conditions possible in our plant and therefore I must ensure that the foliage does not become too large and that some light always arrives on the ground.