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After spending a wonderful day in the hills of Piedmont, you may want to buy a truffle to take home and enjoy while remembering your great experience.

Where to buy truffles

After spending a wonderful day in the hills of Piedmont, you may want to buy a truffle to take home and enjoy while remembering your great experience. There are several places where you can buy truffles and where you will be able to choose from a vast selection of fresh and preserved products. The easiest solution is to walk into one of the many local stores: they offer plenty of good quality products at reasonable prices. These stores also offer tastings of truffle-based products and a wealth of options to pick from.

From truffle spreads to grated and pickled truffles, from culinary delicacies (such as tagliatelle with white truffle and truffle liver pate') to aromatized products (oil, cheese, cold cuts, etc.): these are just some of the choices available to you. The most interesting place to buy truffles are the truffle fairs. Thay are plentiful in all the truffle areas of the region and attract thousands of visitors every year.

From the first half of October until the end of November, you can find beautiful truffle specimens nicely arranged on the colourful market stalls, run by the truffle hunters themselves or the stores owners. Here you will be able to choose from a large selection of truffles, as well as appreciate truffle specimens that are unique in terms of weight and size. Otherwise, if you have a chance to enjoy some freshly shaved truffle on a nice plate of tagliatelle at a restaurant, you could talk to the restaurateurs and they may have whole truffles for sale.

However, this only happens on rare occasions and, in any case, the price may be higher than that applied by the stores. Last but not least is another intriguing way of buying truffles, which is worth trying even if just to satisfy your curiosity.

If you like adventure and don't mind getting up before the sun rises, you can go to one of the strategic spots chosen by the truffle hunters for their negotiations. You will find them in the main squares in town, towards the end of fall, with their magic white and blue chequed handkerchiefs quickly coming out of their pockets and going back in empty, after only a few seconds. It is definitely worth a try.

How to choose

To trust is good, not to trust is certainly better, even when it comes to truffles! The old proverb holds true when dealing with the precious mushroom, from its consumption to the cultivation of the mycorrhizae inoculated plants for its production. It is advisable to pay attention to what experts and connoisseurs in the field have to say about truffles, in order to avoid disappointment and a considerable loss of money. We will illustrate here the most common problems and the precautions to take in order to prevent, or at least minimize any damage. Unless you know a truffle hunter personally, it is important to be aware of and stay away from low quality products, that are either marcescent or unripe. Some people try to pass off low quality truffles as great specimens, or apply excessive markups compared to the market price.

In such cases, you can adopt the following strategy. When buying truffles, pay special attention not just at how the truffle looks, but also at its smell and texture, by adopting the techniques illustrated in this guide. The specimen that you are inspecting must be distinctly firm to the touch, a sign of freshness, as opposed to a truffle that is soft when pressed, a sign that it could be marcescent or, in any case, a poor quality product. The sense of smell plays an even more subtle role, that of recognizing the most prestigious of two healthy specimens. If we consider the king of truffles, the Tuber magnatum Pico, that is to say the white truffle, we will know it is perfect if we can smell a balanced and delicate scent of garlic, hay and honey as opposed to a strong smell of ammonia.

The price of truffles will be determined by weight. Be wary of truffles pre-priced per piece. Also, it is advisable to be informed about the average prices applicable at a certain point in time. If you have truffle at the restaurant, you may want to ask the server to freshly shave it on your plate right at tableside and only after having tested it according to the modalities illustrated before. The price of a single serving of shaved truffle, usually 10 grams, will range between 30 and 40 euros. For those who get excited about buying truffle plants to show off to their envious friends, there is an even greater warning: scams can be just around the corner and they can result in much bigger losses.

MAIN RISKS

• purchase of plants not inoculated with mycorrhizae
• purchase of plants insufficiently inoculated with mycorrhizae
• purchase of plants inoculated with mycorrhizae of truffle species that are less prestigious than what they claim to be
• purchase of fake truffle plants
• informarsi bene sulle tipologie di alberi a vocazione tartufigena e sulle specie di tartufo che, a tutt’oggi, offrono risultati soddisfacenti in quanto a micorrizazione
• fare sempre controllare le piante e un campione di terreno da un esperto, per la verifica delle micorrize e dell’esistenza delle caratteristiche pedoclimatiche
• tenere a mente che, nella migliore delle ipotesi (che comprende anche il possesso di un buon cane da tartufi), non si raccolgono tartufi prima di 6 anni dall’impianto della tartufaia

L'analisi sensoriale

La valutazione del Tuber magnatum prevede l’utilizzo di tre dei nostri cinque sensi: vista, tatto, olfatto. L’analisi visiva si compone della valutazione dell’integrità del corpo fruttifero, fattore non unicamente estetico, poiché un tartufo integro si deteriora con minore rapidità. Il grado di pulizia è importante in quanto la presenza di residui di terra, oltre a rendere meno gradevole l’aspetto, può mascherare difetti ed imperfezioni.

L’analisi visiva si conclude con la valutazione dell’attraenza intesa come sensazione strettamente personale riguardante la bellezza e la gradevolezza estetica dell’esemplare. La valutazione tattile prevede l’analisi della consistenza del tartufo: un buon tartufo deve dare appena la sensazione di elasticità, deve essere turgido e compatto, non presentarsi decisamente duro, ma neppure eccessivamente elastico.

L’ultima fase è quella olfattiva: l’aroma del tartufo è costituito da un ventaglio di sensazioni semplici e di intensità ed ampiezza variabile.

È proprio questa fragranza unica e attraente che ne ha determinato l’assoluto successo culinario. Nella composizione aromatica di Tuber magnatum possono essere riconosciuti i seguenti descrittori: fermentato, fungo, miele, fieno, aglio, spezie, terra bagnata e ammoniaca.

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