The truffle - a misshapen, odd looking fungi found growing underground and almost always simbiotically with a particular range of trees. There are many types of truffels; white, black, chinese and summer or burgundy, all which grow in various locations throughout the world.
The white truffle, also known as 'Alba Madonna', comes predominantly from the Langhe area of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy and Alba but is also found in Croatia. 'Tuber borchii' or 'whitish truffel' variety of truffel which is found in Tuscany, Romagna, the Marche and Molise yet this particular type lacks the distinct aromatic quality as those from Piedmont. The white truffle grows with oak, hazel, poplar and beech trees and is recognised by the signature pale cream colourings or brown-with-white-markings and have been known to grow to 12cm and 500gms. So highly esteemed is the white truffle that as of 2009 they were being sold for 10,200 euro per kilogram.
The black truffle is also known as the 'black perigord truffle' and acquired such a title after the Perigord region of France. It is found almost exclusively in the areas of France, Spain and Italy and production is at 45, 35 and 20 percent respectively. Smaller amounts of production are also known to occur in Slovenia, Croatia and the Australian states of Tasmania and Western Australia. The black truffle grows exclusively with Oak. Of the production occurring in France, around 80 percent comes from the south-east, including upper Provence. As of 2009 black truffles were selling for around 1000 euro per kilogram in a farmers market and around 3490 euro per kilogram at retail level.
The Chinese truffle, harvested bountifully in China is commonly exported to the West as an inferior quality subsitute to the Black Truffle. A variety of this particular type of truffle is so similar in appearance to the higher quality Black truffle that it sometimes requires a microscope to spot the difference.
Summer or Burgundy truffles are found widely throughout most European countries and enjoyed as a quality subsitute to the far more expensive black truffle. Although molecular research has proven Summer and Burgundy truffles are one species, the environmental factors associated with the growth of the truffle ultimately affects the size, colour and taste of the variety. The burgundy truffle is usually large in size, ranging from two to ten centimetres in diameter and has an intense hazelnut-like aroma, rendering it a gastronomic delight. As the name suggests the Summer truffle is harvested throughout the periods of May to August. The flavour and size is similar to the burgundy truffle but the aroma is less intense and the colour is of a more pale hazel hue.