Several types of truffles exist, some considered more valued (and often characterised by higher purchase prices), some more linked to local or regional culinary traditions. In any case, these are nature’s products available in very limited quantities that vary from year to year. Below are the most renowned species, the main characteristics of each, and the period of the year in which they can be found; the harvesting calendars, in particular, are annual, and vary from region to region:
White Truffle or Trifola - Tuber magnatum Pico
Harvest: September/October until late December
Organoleptic characteristics: Externally, this truffle has an ochre or olive-yellow smooth surface. The inner pulp is yellowish white with brownish hues that vary according to the level of development, the type of soil, and the plant with which the truffle is in symbiosis. For instance, truffles born near oaks have hazelnut-coloured gleba, while those that grow near beeches tend to be reddish. The perfume of this truffle is particularly marked and is very particular, remindful of cheese and garlic; its flavour may seem slightly hot and vaguely similar to that of Italian grana cheese.
Habitat: Common in Umbria, Piedmont, Tuscany and in the Marche region.
Périgord truffle or black truffle - Tuber melanosporum
Harvest: from 15 November to 15 March (regional calendars may vary)
Organoleptic characteristics: The peridium is a black warty surface with small reddish zones when immature. The gleba is brownish-black with slight very crammed whitish streaks. The perfume is aromatic, not particularly pungent, and the flavour is delicate.
Habitat: Widely found in the Central Apennines, in Piedmont and in the Veneto regions. It can be grown in suitable terrains in which particularly adequate tree species have been planted.
Bianchetto or whitish truffle - Tuber borchii Vitt.(or albidium)
Harvest: from 15 January to 30 April, approximately
Organoleptic characteristics: The peridium is smooth, and the colour may range from ochre to dark orange or very dark. The gleba is initially whitish; as the truffle matures, it becomes reddish brown. It has quite wide, yet scarce, ramified, whitish streaks that then turn brown with time. The perfume is penetrating and remindful of garlic, and the flavour, not particularly pleasant, sometimes make it difficult to digest, even after cooking.
Black summer truffle, Scorzone - Tuber aestivum Vitt.
Harvest: from 1 May to 31 August
Organoleptic characteristics: The peridium is black, with typically large protruding warts. The gleba is hazelnut-coloured, with numerous whitish streaks, more or less thin. Its perfume is more delicate than that of other black truffles, and its flavour is remindful of that of porcini mushrooms.
Smooth black truffle, garlic truffle - Tuber macrosporum
Harvest: from 1 September to 31 December
Organoleptic characteristics: The peridium is reddish-brown, sometimes with rust-coloured spots, with discreet warts. The gleba is whitish brown in immature truffles, and later becomes rusty brown, with several light-coloured streaks. Its perfume is similar to that of the much prized white truffle. Its flavour is very pleasant.
Habitat: Found in Europe and in North America.
Common black truffle - Tuber mesentericum
Harvest: from 1 September to 31 January
Organoleptic characteristics: The peridium is black, with very small, crammed warts. The gleba is usually brownish-grey, sometimes yellowish-grey or brown, with white streaks. The perfume is characteristic, remindful of bitumen or phenol. The flavour is slightly bitter.
Black winter truffle - Tuber brumale
Harvest: From 1 January to 15 March
Organoleptic characteristics: The peridium is black, with light and flat, low warts. The gleba is brownish-grey with white streaks that often converge in a single point, forming spots. The perfume is intense but pleasant, and the flavour is marked but not particularly fine.
Moscato truffle Tuber brumale Moschatum De Ferry
Harvest: from 15 November to 15 March
Organoleptic characteristics: It differs from Tuber brumale for its stronger smell, more penetrating and similar to musk, and for its spicier, more intense flavour.