By Culturekiosque Staff
ALBA, ITALY, 23 OCTOBER 2013 Truffles are the most expensive
mushrooms in the world. And while Umbria is famous for its
black truffles, Alba fetches the highest prices for its renowned
fine white truffles. Depending on the quality of the harvest, prices can
fluctuate from $2,500 to $3,500 or more per pound. In 2010, for
example, 13 truffles were purchased as a group for 307,200 euros
This year, the Piedmont Region of Italy is celebrating the
83rd edition of the International White Truffle of Alba
Fair. Attracting locals and many visitors from abroad, the
autumnal festival (through 17 November) features weekends full of
special events, everything from the "heart of the fair," i.e. the
Market, offering certified white truffles for sale, and a Palio Race (by
donkey), to wine tastings, gourmet food stands and restaurants
(menus à la truffe), concerts and art
The ancients thought the truffle was the food of the gods,
with aphrodisiac properties that according to mythology were well known to
the impetuous Jupiter, while Roman recipe writers advised ordinary mortals
to cook the Tubers (mushroom classification came much later) under ash and
eat them with honey. Later on, in the Middle Ages, a deep-rooted mistrust
of this strange natural product developed, and it was believed to be
poisonous. The consecration of the truffle as the king of cuisine only
took place in the last two centuries, with its constant use in the courts
of the nobility.
The "Tuber" can be found in valley floors or hilly areas that are not
too dry. Normally these can be grassy ground or where there is little
vegetation, without brushwood and with generally good humidity.
The various types of truffles are determined by their shape, size,
colour, the appearance of some of their parts, aroma, and taste. If these
characteristics are not sufficient, a microscopic examination of specific
characteristics is necessary. It is possible to identify truffles at all
stages of their development by means of bio-molecular tests.
In Italy around ten species of truffles are harvested. The most
valuable of these is the Tuber magnatum Pico (Alba or Acqualagna
or Fine White Truffle), which has always been the most prized in the
kitchen and in terms of value.There are no poisonous truffles, but some
with a nauseating or no odour can cause slight gastro-intestinal upset.
Some of these are called false truffles'.
Some species are found in small quantities also in Germany,
Switzerland, the Czech and Slovak Republics and the UK. Less well-known
types of truffles are found in Asia, Africa, America and Australia.
The most valuable species of truffle that have been identified are
found in Italy, France, Spain and the north of former Yugoslavia.
The fine white truffle has so far only been found in the northern and
central Italy and Istria. Typical areas are in southern Piedmont, in
particular on the renowned characteristic hills around Turin, the Langhe
and Monferrato. The city of Alba has the oldest market, which because of
the quality of the truffles sold there, is responsible for setting the
Finally, the 2013 recipient of the Truffle of the Year remains a
mystery, but in years past the "Tartufo dellAnno" has gone to such
luminaries as Claudia Cardinale, Penelope Cruz, Queen Elizabeth II, and
Winston Churchill. The event is organized by the Ente Fiera Internazionale
del Tartufo Bianco dAlba.
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