Tuscany is one of the most important Italian regions for truffle production. The harvesting primarily concerns the white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico), the most prized, and to a lesser extent, other species found in various areas of the regional territory, such as the marzuolo truffle (Tuber borchii Vitt.), the scorzone truffle (Tuber aestivum Vitt.), the uncinato truffle (Tuber uncina-tum Chatin), the prized black truffle (Tuber melanosporum Vitt.), and the winter black truffle (Tuber brumale Vitt.).
What are Truffles?
Truffles are fungi that grow underground, often near trees or shrubs, with which they form a symbiotic relationship, exchanging essential nutrients necessary for their life.
Italy is home to over twenty-five species of truffles, but only a few are edible and of commercial importance.
Where to Find Them?
The presence of truffles is linked to that of common tree and shrub species in Tuscany, such as oaks, poplars, willows, lindens, pines, hazelnuts, cistus, both within forests and as isolated or aligned plants. However, each truffle has a specific growth environment, and generally, the most prized truffles are also the rarest.
In Tuscany, due to the variety of environments, all species of edible truffles can be found, from the prized ones to the so-called "lesser" varieties.
Truffles are harvested with the assistance of specially trained dogs.
Peridium: Smooth, pale yellow, sometimes with greenish or ochre tones.
Gleba: Yellowish with hazelnut or brown shades, occasionally with red specks, crossed by a dense network of very fine white veins.
Shape: It can be round or highly lobed, or notably flattened, depending on the type of soil in which the truffle has grown.
Size: This species varies significantly in size, with specimens that can weigh several hundred grams or even exceed one kilogram in weight. Maturation
Period: From September to December.
Indicative Price: This species is the most commercially prized due to its exceptionally high organoleptic qualities. The price, which varies with the size and shape of each truffle, is mainly influenced by the annual production. However, it is consistently high because demand far exceeds supply. Generally, it exceeds 500 Euros per kilogram, but in the last 3-4 years, due to particularly scarce harvests, prices have even reached peaks of 3,000-4,000 Euros for large specimens.
White truffle in the kitchen: It possesses an intense and penetrating aroma, reminiscent of methane or fermented cheese. It is best enjoyed raw on warm dishes that enhance its aroma without masking it.
Peridium: warty, formed by small and not very pronounced warts, black in colour.
Gleba: black-purple in mature specimens, with fine white veins, which tend to become reddish in the air and disappear when cooked.
Shape: usually rounded, but also irregular or lobed.
Size: variable, from that of a hazelnut to that of an orange, rarely larger.
Ripening period: from November to March. Indicative price: on average exceeds €250-300/kg.
The black truffle in the kitchen: it has a sweet aroma and a tasty flavour, which are well suited to cooking and accompanying meat main courses.
How to recognize it: by the small and not very pronounced warts of the peridium, by the dark color with violet tones of the gleba and by the sweet scent.
Peridium: smooth, light coloured, varying from white-ochre to reddish. Gleba: pale tending towards fawn to brown, with large and few white veins.
Shape: variable, basically rounded if the truffle grew in sandy soil, sometimes irregular, with a humped surface.
Size: the average size of this truffle is rather small, like a hazelnut or little more, but can reach up to the size of a chicken egg.
Ripening period: from January to April.
Indicative price: generally low, given the small dimensions, oscillating from a minimum of 75 to a maximum of approximately 150 €/kg.
The Marzuolo truffle in the kitchen: its strong aroma, with garlic-cei tones, and its strong and long-lasting flavor make it a suitable condiment for various dishes, provided, like the prized white truffle, it is not subjected to prolonged cooking.
How to recognize it: by the smooth peridium, the light or reddish colors, the small size, the garlicky scent, the late winter-spring period of development.
San Miniato & Truffle
The white truffle of San Miniato is easy to recognize precisely because of these characteristics: the tradition of truffle harvesting has been widespread for about 100 years. In 1982, thanks to the initiative of the municipal administration and some truffle hunters, the Truffle Hunters Association of the San Miniato hills was established, with the aim of "Fostering the protection, collection, production and valorisation of the White Truffle of San Miniato, also through appropriate information and propaganda work", as stated in the first article of the statute. In 1987, the Truffle Hunters Association of the Sanminate Hills was established, which today has more than 400 members and is one of the main ones in Italy.
The collection activity, which takes place according to strict regulations and regional law, is carried out in the months of October, November and December. The maturation time of San Miniato truffles can vary from 5 to 8 weeks or even more depending on the species and climate. Total production is estimated at around 80 quintals per year, which can reach up to 100 in the most profitable seasons, for a market share ranging from 20 to 25% of the national quantities of fine white truffles.
The National White Truffle Market Exhibition, which has been held for several years in San Miniato between November and December, always offers a program full of initiatives to celebrate the treasure of the territory.