Truffle from Etruscan times to now…
Truffle and the traditions that surround it. A journey to Tuscany carries a long list of places to visit. Views and experiences to embrace and food to savour. Unquestionably truffle is always among the first five foods. It is undoubtedly a fine delicacy which belongs strictly to a few regions and microclimates. Tuscany, together with Piedmont and Marche, are some of the best areas.
Etruscans, who populated Tuscany and northern Lazio between 10th and 1st century BC, enjoyed food and wine daily. So much so that they set the table twice a day and had their meals leisurely with the family. This is still an Italian tradition of which we are proud.
Our ancestors loved truffle as it would add a special flavour to each dish. Most of their traditions were followed by the Romans who would pay a substantial amount to have truffle since they were always hard to find.
As a matter of fact truffles are underground mushrooms and grow in a particular environment underneath the earth near specific indigenous trees. Hence a very good dog is required to find them.
During the Middle Ages they were considered evil and poisonous produce and not at all appreciated. Luckily Renaissance brought them back to popularity when Catherine of Medici took truffles to France when she married King Henry II. Since then truffles have grown in fame and value so that today they are considered a luxury.
Being seasonal makes them very special and therefore not always available, although the different seasons provide different truffles. In Tuscany we are fortunate as they are more accessible within particular areas of the region.
When can we find the truffle?
The black Spring truffle ‘Marzuolo’ in March, the black Summer truffle ‘Scorzone’ from June to August and the most precious and pricey white truffle, from September to December.
The black truffle, either in Spring or Summer, has a dense texture and an earthy aroma while the white truffle, found in Autumn has a strong earthy aroma and a buttery, melting texture.
The price varies, whilst the black truffle is reasonable and affordable, the white truffle is “precious” and increases in price if it is large and the shape smooth and regular.
Local chefs have created a number of recipes but we still prefer the traditional ways; such as some shaves of truffle on hand-made ‘Tagliolini’ pasta or on fried eggs, a classic for Etruscans. When you visit Tuscany don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in some of these dishes!