Also called the Perigord truffle, this justly famous fungus is native to southern Europe where it grows singly, two to twenty inches below soil level among tree roots in red Mediterranean soil that is alkaline, moderately dry, and well-drained. It has a mycorrhizal relationship with deciduous trees such as holm oak, French oak, hazel, and cherry, and suppress the growth of other plants around them creating the appearance of a burned area. The truffles fruit in late fall to early with the choicest specimens available at Christmas time. Southern France leads the production of black truffles with Spain a close second, and Italy a more distant third but other areas around the world, including North America, are beginning to cultivate them using tree rootstock inoculated with truffle mycelium.
The irregularly-shaped fruiting body of the black truffle is ¼ to 3 ¼ inches across and is covered with pyramidal coal black warts the size of which is said to be directly proportional to the number of stones in the soil. The solid interior flesh is brown marbled with white veins and has a highly prized unique aroma. The spores are dark brown
Black truffles are considered one of the most highly prized foods in the world which the hefty price tag of about $1200/lb suggests. Don’t expect to go out and collect black truffles because finding and harvesting these delicacies is a professional occupation often employing trained dogs or pigs. Needless to say the truffle growing areas are highly guarded.
The strong unique aroma and taste account for the high price fetched by black. truffle. The aroma has been described as earthy, strawberry, and dried fruit with a hint of cocoa; the taste as peppery and bitter. Although the aroma decreases slowly at room temperature, it increases if the truffles are stored at about 32 F. The flavors on the other hand, develop after the truffles are heated and can be used to enhance the flavor of meats, fish, seafood, soups, risotto, egg and cheese dishes, and white pasta sauce.
Photo Credit: By voyages provence – http://www.flickr.com/photos/voyages-provence/12271665264/, CC BY 2.0, Link