Black Winter Truffles
The king of black truffles and almost certainly the most exciting truffle variety for chefs. Often known as the “Périgord” truffle, the flavour is rich, intoxicating, decadent and utterly delicious. They’re also extremely versatile and can be used in so many different dishes.
Native in the wild to France, Spain, Italy and parts of Eastern Europe but the vast majority are now cultivated – not an easy process as it involves inoculating the roots of oak and hazel trees with truffle spore and then a long wait with an uncertain result.
Spanish cultivation in particular has been a huge success and the quality is amazing. Meanwhile the French truffle industry is declining and Italian black winter truffles are usually less consistent.
This variety is also now cultivated in the new world – above all in Australia but other Southern Hemisphere countries in various stages of production include New Zealand, South Africa, Chile and Argentina.
The season runs through the winter – so from late November to March in Europe and from June until August in the Southern Hemisphere, making black winter truffles now available for almost 8 months of the year.
Black Summer Truffles
A relatively common species native to almost every country in Europe and elsewhere. The season runs all through the spring and summer and the price is generally fairly low, reflecting the large volumes that are found and their less intense flavour.
They have the mildest aroma of the main truffle species, especially earlier in the season when we would not recommend using them at all. However they can become a bit more interesting towards the end of the summer when the aroma and flavour start to develop.
To appreciate summer truffles at their best they should be used in very generous quantities; they can then be delicious in dishes where a milder truffle is required. They can be warmed but should never be fully cooked.
Black Autumn Truffles
A very close relative to the summer truffle, identical externally but with a considerably darker internal colour as well as a much more powerful flavour and aroma. They are found in different areas to the summer truffle and have a later harvesting period. Black autumn truffles have a delicious fragrant yet earthy truffle taste and work beautifully in many autumn dishes.
The season runs from September to January and they are sometimes known as the ‘Burgundy’ truffle. This is the variety we hunt wild in Wiltshire and we also source them from mainland Europe – our imported truffles are noticeably different from those that we hunt in Wiltshire, but still very good.
At their peak the aroma of black autumn truffles is fantastic and in Wiltshire it envelops the entire woodland as we hunt them. A versatile star in the kitchen, they combine beautifully with a large variety of other flavours.
Tuber Magnatum Pico
There is a good reason why everyone goes crazy for white truffles during their season – from autumn into winter – the aroma is just out of this world and worthy of all the hype and high prices.
As the only species which has never been successfully cultivated, white truffles are still found in the traditional way – growing in the wild and hunted secretively by skilled experts, often at night, working with dogs (never pigs).
Despite the fact that they are often called “Alba” truffles, the vast majority are hunted in other parts of Italy (for example Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria, Abruzzo or Marche), or in Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Albania, Hungary or Romania. Many are then bought by wholesalers in Italy before being sold on around the world – we always source direct from the woods instead.
White truffles must always be served raw – grated or sliced over a dish just before serving. They are usually served on simple dishes – traditionally on egg, pasta, risotto or fonduta. Their aroma is beyond compare and perhaps the nicest smell on the planet!
Spring White Truffles
You may be told that these truffles are similar to ‘proper’ white truffles (tuber magnatum pico) – they’re not. They are a completely different species and are certainly not interchangeable in recipes.
Often known as “Bianchetti” or “Marzuolo” truffles in Italy, they’re usually at their best from late February to early April.
At their peak spring white truffles can have an intense and very interesting garlicky aroma, although the flavour is milder than the aroma. In our experience some chefs absolutely love them, others really don’t like them.
We believe they can work beautifully in certain dishes and combine very well with other spring ingredients such as morels, asparagus and wild garlic – perfect for a seasonal special.
Honey truffles are totally unique and have proved to be extremely popular with many forward thinking chefs. Their season can vary significantly due to climatic conditions but generally runs from mid August to late October.
Technically speaking they are not actually truffles at all (they’re not a member of the tuber genus) – but they are an underground fungus, found almost exclusively growing wild under black locust trees along the River Danube in Hungary.
The aroma is reminiscent of button mushrooms, and the flavour starts quite similar but has a very long lasting honey sweet aftertaste, with an unusual but pleasant mouthfeel. Interestingly they freeze very well, with much of the unique and delicious taste preserved, so can be used all year round in this way.
Due to their sweetness honey truffles can obviously work very well with desserts, but also many game and other savoury combinations. They also make a fantastic ice cream with a sweet yet slightly savoury flavour.