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Described as the “diamond of the kitchen” by French gourmet, Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (a French lawyer, politician, and famed epicure and gastronome), truffles are considered prized nutritional condiments and premium food additives. Truffles are the fruiting body of an ascomycete fungus usually found underground, which is predominantly one of the several species of the Tuber genus.

There are truffle species which are highly prized as food, and these edible truffles are held highly by people and cultures in places like France, Italy (discover all the Italian truffle types), Ottoman cultural demography, Middle Eastern, and Spanish cuisine. In these places where truffles are cherished, they are cultivated agriculturally and can also be harvested from their natural habitats where they grow without the human influence of any sort.

What is a White Truffle?

One of the best and unique species of truffle is the Alba white truffle, often referred to as the winter white truffle, Piedmont or Alba truffle (mainly because Italy is blessed with an abundance of white truffles). Truffles grow and are found a few inches down in the earth, and often have to grow in symbiosis with the roots of hardwood trees like oaks, chestnut, hazelnut, and hornbeam. The irregularly shaped knobby little spheres range in size from an inch or so across to over a pound (though truffles of that size are rare). The firm flesh of a white truffle is pale cream to light brown in color, with white marbling throughout. Discover what is Black Truffle or the difference between black and white truffles.

Why Truffles Are Generally Highly Sought After

what is a white truffle
Alba White truffle and Italian homemade pasta

One reason why truffles are generally highly sought after – apart from the fact that they are rare to find – is that they are highly nutritional and serve several health benefits. They are high in carbohydrates, protein, and fiber and usually contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, micronutrients of various importance, etc. Truffles are placed to be a complete source of protein by recently evolving research and are considered capable of providing all nine essential amino acids needed in the body. Truffles are also an excellent source of antioxidants and compounds that aid the body system in fighting free radicals and preventing oxidative damage to the human cells.

The Winter White Truffle

The Winter White Truffle is considered the holy grail of truffles by many, including Dion Range, Managing Director of Stoneb arn Truffles. This particular variety of truffle, also known as the white Alba truffle, Italian white truffle, or Piedmont truffle, has a really intense aroma and flavor. This is despite it being really hard to cultivate. This difficulty results in scarcity and is considered the major reason for its very pricey market value. In Australia, for example, the price per kilogram has climbed over 6,500 American Dollars ($AU9,000 – 5,590 Euro) and would continue to climb, as there remains very little improvement in the cultivation of this species.

What is the White Truffle Flavor?

Alba truffle fair 2019 in Piedmont Region
Alba truffle fair 2019 in Piedmont Region – October 7, 2023 to December 12, 2023

Describing the flavor and aroma of the winter white truffle, some have said it has a musky aroma and an earthy garlic-like flavor – which some of the newly initiated or uninitiated may find overwhelming. This is one of the reasons why many consider that the white truffle is best enjoyed raw and suggests it is preferably shaved in moderation over simple, home-style dishes. The winter white truffle is mostly a light yellow and has a smooth exterior, making it more like a potato.

Discover More: What are the differences in taste between black and white truffles?

White Truffle Hunting and Events

White truffle hunting is a popular activity in the regions where they grow, such as Piedmont in Italy. Trained dogs are used to locate the truffles, which are hidden underground near the roots of specific tree species. The truffle hunting season typically begins in October and continues through December, with the peak season being November.
Many events are organized around the truffle hunting season, such as the Alba White Truffle World Market and the International Alba White Truffle Fair held in the Piedmont region. These events showcase the best white truffles, offer tastings, and provide an opportunity to learn more about truffle hunting, cultivation, and cuisine.

International Alba White Truffle Fair 2023:

From October 7, 2023, to December 12, 2023, the 93rd edition of the International White Truffle Fair of Alba will be held in the Piedmont Region. This major event is a celebration of Italian haute cuisine and showcases the best of Italian excellence.

The International Alba White Truffle Fair is comprised of several key events and attractions, such as:

The Truffle World Market: The heart of the event dedicated to the Tuber magnatum Pico, where visitors can taste and purchase the finest truffles from the Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato woods.
Donkey Palio and Folklore Events: A unique opportunity to discover Alba’s millenary culture through colorful folklore events, historical re-enactments, music, and popular games.
Cooking Shows: Each weekend, top national and international chefs will demonstrate their skills by creating bespoke dishes featuring the white truffle at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
Dinners: Exclusive events showcasing world-famous products and renowned chefs, celebrating the Alba White Truffle and the region’s acclaimed food and wine.
Cooking Classes: Held at the Castle of Roddi, these classes offer a blend of history, culture, art, and gastronomy, taught by renowned national chefs.
Wine Tasting Experience: Expert oenologists and sommeliers guide guests through tastings of local wines, revealing their unique characteristics and interesting facts.
Truffle Sensory Analysis: Led by Sensory Analysis judges from the National Truffle Study Centre, this hands-on experience teaches participants about the organoleptic characteristics of Tuber magnatum Pico through olfactory tastings, sensory tests, and practical learning.
Alba Truffle Kids: A dedicated area for children, featuring educational games made from wood and natural materials, where young visitors can learn about the region’s heritage and the UNESCO World Heritage hills while having fun.
Exhibitions, Music, and Sports: The International Alba White Truffle Fair also includes a variety of cultural, musical, and sporting events to entertain and engage visitors.

Storing and Cooking with White Truffles

To maintain their unique aroma and flavor, white truffles should be stored in a cool, dry place, wrapped in a paper towel or cloth, and placed in an airtight container. They can be refrigerated for up to a week, but their aroma will diminish over time, so it’s best to consume them as soon as possible.
When cooking with white truffles, remember that heat can diminish their flavor, so it’s best to use them raw or add them to dishes at the end of the cooking process. They can be shaved or grated over pasta, risotto, eggs, or even used in dessert recipes. The possibilities are endless, but the key is to let the white truffle’s flavor and aroma shine without overpowering the dish.