truffle is a subterranean fungus that lives in symbiosis with
the roots of trees. It resembles a tuber and has an internal
fleshy part or pulp (“gleba”) and rind (“periudum”).
Truffles contain a high percentage of water, fibres and mineral
salts absorbed from the soil through the roots of the tree with
which they live in mutually beneficial association. The trees
that accept this “co-existence” with their roots
more readily are the poplar, lime, oak, and willow. The colour,
flavour and odour of the truffles are determined by the specific
characteristics of each tree. For example, truffles that grow
close to oak trees have a more penetrating odour while those
found close to limes will be lighter in colour and more fragrant.
The shape of the truffle depends on the type of soil. If the
ground is soft, the truffle will be smooth and round whereas
if the soil is compact, the truffle will be lumpy and knotty
as it encounters greater difficulty in finding space for growth.
Although the conditions of the soil may be excellent as regards
pH and humidity and the tree potentially suitable for the growth
of truffes, not all trees are able promote their development.
Truffle growers have been studying this particular phenomenon
for many years with a view to the future production of truffles
in woodland under the direct control of man and not tied simply
to chance. This research has already produced satisfactory results
as regards certain types of truffles (e.g. cultivation of the
highly-valued black truffle) but, unfortunately, achievement
of similar results in the production of the white truffle still
remains a long way off. For the moment, it has been ascertained
that these require soil with large pores with high level oxygenation,
rich in calcium and with a good level of humidity also in the
Summer period. However, even if these particular conditions
are present, good results are not always achieved. Research
continues but, for the moment, this precious fruit of the earth
continues to be a fascinating jewel wrapped in an aura of magic.
This state of affairs may continue for some time but we can
still continue to enjoy the truffle and appreciate it as nature
has created it.