Truffles are perhaps the most iconic symbol of culinary extravagance in the fresh produce marketplace. This famed delicacy is a type of wild mushroom that grows below the ground and, more specifically, only near certain native trees in a few selected regions in the world. Truffles are prized by culinary professionals and food lovers around the world for their uniquely pungent aroma, earthly flavor and rarity. So much so, that demand for this foraged food has made the truffle literally worth its weight in gold at certain times of the year.
The truffle is not a cultivated mushroom; it is a wild fungus that is hunted, rather than harvested, by specially trained pigs and dogs, which are able to track down the knobby, thick-skinned delicacy through scent. This truffle-hunting process is time consuming and labor intensive; factors that definitely contribute to the high prices that fresh black winter truffles can command. With the exception of the Italian Black Summer variety, most truffles peak in flavor and aroma in the late fall or winter. The summer truffle is decidedly milder in all aspects compared to winter truffle types.
Storage of fresh truffles is critical to maintaining good flavor. Truffles can be stored for several days in a paper bag in the refrigerator. A plastic bag is not advised as it will attract moisture and shorten shelf-life. Be aware that the truffle’s pungent aroma can affect other foods. Truffles can also be frozen for several months in a glass jar. However, the common myth of storing truffles in dry white rice will preserve it longer in not recommend. Actually the rice will tend to draw the moisture and aroma away from the truffle rather than preserve it. All in all, truffles are meant be used and enjoyed as fresh as possible. Focusing on how to prepare them, will eliminate the need to store them!
Truffles are generally used raw, or very lightly cooked, because the flavor elements are unstable and will dissipate greatly when cooked. It is best to “warm up” truffles by shaving slices into already heat foods, like pasta or rice dishes. The aromatic flavor of truffles will go a long way, so you can use sparingly. Several slices steeped in a butter, wine and herb reduction sauce will flavor a large bowl of warm pasta quite easily! Shave truffle pieces into a creamy risotto at the very last minute, just before serving for a deliciously decadent finishing flare!
In response to an increased demand for this rare mushroom delicacy, Melissa’s proudly launches our year-round Truffles Direct program. In concert with key global partners located in Italy, France and Australia, Melissa’s can now offer our customers direct shipments of the ultimate in culinary opulence twelve months of the year:
Melissa's Truffle Calendar
Italian Black Summer Truffle (tuber aestivum) season is May through August. The variety is lighter in color, aroma and has a much milder taste than winter truffles.
Italian Burgundy Truffle (tuber aestivum) season is mid-September through November. Because of the cooler weather when this truffle is foraged, the Burgundy has a slightly more pronounced flavor than the Black Summer Truffle.
Italian White Truffle (tuber magnatum) season is available September through December. The variety also grows in Croatia, Serbia, Romania and Italy. Melissa’s offers the Italian as we feel it offers superior quality over the rest in both flavor and aroma. It is the rarest of all truffles types so, of course, the most sought after.
French Perigord Truffle (tuber melanosporum) season is November through March. The French Black truffle is renowned for its earthy chocolate tones.
Italian Black Winter Truffle (tuber melanosporun) appears in late December and continues through March. This variety has the most robust aroma and full-bodied flavor. The winter truffle hunting season is celebrated with culinary festivals in Italy.
Australian Black Truffle (tuber melanosporum) season is May through August. It is the same species of truffle French Perigord. However, this mushroom is commercially cultivated in Western Australia and harvested during that country winter months to insure a constant supply of truffles during our Northern Hemisphere summer months.