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Truffle hunting is one of the most fascinating aspects of the mushroom world. The cultivation of truffles is very difficult and does not yield the expected results. For this reason, foraging in different truffle areas is still the best way to harvest the precious underground mushroom. Finding truffles is not easy, there are very strict regulations to protect this culinary gift of the earth as well. But before we go into the truffle hunt and all its challenges, let's first clarify more essential matters.

What are truffles?

Italienischer Trüffelhund von Di Bennardo

Truffles can be described as a mushroom that grows underground and is difficult to obtain or find. Truffles belong to the tubular mushroom family.

In fact, it is an underground mushroom that grows near the roots of trees and can be very difficult to harvest as it lies between 5 and 30 cm underground. For this reason, truffles are usually harvested in the wild by trained pigs (truffle pigs), but especially nowadays by dogs (truffle dogs).

In the forest, truffles form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of several tree species - especially beech, poplar, oak, birch, hornbeam, hazel and pine. These noble tubers prefer clay or calcareous soils that are well drained and neutral or alkaline. Depending on the type of truffle, they bear fruit all year round and, unlike above-ground mushrooms, do not form stalks and caps. This means that the spore-containing part of the truffle is completely enclosed.

The origin of the word truffle seems to be the Latin term "tuber", meaning swelling or lump, which later became "tufer" and from which the various European terms originated, such as the Italian word "tartufo".

In Italy, the prized black and white winter truffles can be found in Abruzzo, Piedmont, Umbria, Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Lazio and Molise. But can you just go out and look for real truffles? Or what do budding collectors need to find truffles?

What do you need to find truffles?


Pigs were originally used for truffle hunting. Pigs have a very good sense of smell and can easily locate the underground mushrooms. But pigs have one disadvantage: They are greedy and immediately eat the truffles they find. Nevertheless, they played an important role in the truffle hunt for their efficiency and sense of smell.

On the noble farms, the pigs were first replaced by dogs: The faithful and tame friend of man is considered much more elegant and refined in his truffle hunt. The use of the dog spread quickly and the truffle pig was used less and less.

Today, the law prohibits the use of pigs in Italy because the animal causes great damage to the forest ecosystem during its excavations. The use of dogs is mandatory, as they are the only animal that can find the exact location of the truffle without damaging the ground.

In Italy, the law stipulates that the dog must be specially trained for truffle hunting.

A trained truffle tracking dog is therefore indispensable and training is not cheap, a well-trained dog can quickly cost up to 5000 euros. However, it is not mandatory to buy an already trained dog or to contact a professional dog handler. With great care and patience it is possible to train a dog yourself. If the dog is a puppy, you start with simple games that gradually become more complex exercises.

Every dog with a good nose is suitable for the truffle hunt, but characteristics such as intelligence, concentration, stamina and dedication are also very important. A dog needs all of this to master its training and prove itself to be a good truffle-sniffing dog.

However, tradition considers some breeds to be the best when it comes to finding truffles:

Bracco Italiano, English Pointer, Spinone Italiano, Cocker Spaniel, Jack Russel, Griffon and Lagotto Romagnolo.

Italienischer frischer Alba Tüffel Piemont von Di Bennardo


Surrounded by the magnificent snow-capped mountains of the Alps, the famous truffle town of Alba is hilly and slightly mountainous. The best way to get here is by car. Alba and Barolo are one of the richest areas for white truffles, not to mention the hills of Asti (Palio di Asti) and Langhe.

In most cases, however, simply knowing which plants are symbiotic with the truffle mushroom or in which areas they occur is not enough to achieve real success when collecting truffles in Piedmont.

It is necessary to know the land and the forest intimately and truffle collectors must be able to avoid the dangers it poses. Dangers include ticks, thorns and prickly plants, vipers, garbage and dangerous objects as well as spiders and insects.

During the truffle season from September to December, hunters with trained dogs roam the countryside and sparse forests of Piedmont (Asti, Alba, Barolo, Barbaresco, La Morra, Neive), Abruzzo and Tuscany in search of the precious white Alba truffles.


The three best-known truffle varieties in Italy include:

1. white Alba truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico)

Shape and color: They almost always have an irregular shape with a smooth, dirty beige surface that ages to a brown. The color of the white Alba truffle flesh is light, very brittle and varies from milky white to deep pink depending on the age of the tree with which it is in symbiosis.

Smell and taste: Musky and earthy with notes of garlic, honey, butter and forest floor. The truffle aroma is more intense, but the truffle flavor is more delicate than that of black truffles and it is more perishable. White Alba truffles should be eaten within a week of harvesting. They range from walnut to apple size and weigh up to 1 pound (0.45 kg).

They are eaten raw in small quantities, usually grated over pasta, risotto, eggs, salads or meat dishes. Just a few grams can add a unique flavor to any recipe. They grow in symbiosis with oak, hazelnut, poplar, willow and beech trees. They can reach a diameter of up to 12 cm and 500 g, but are usually much smaller.

Harvest: The white truffle season begins at the end of September, but they reach their peak in October and November. It is illegal to sell them before September to guarantee quality.

2. Black winter truffle (Tuber brumale Vitt.)

Shape and color: The bark is black with light, low and flattened warts. The gleba (cross-section) is gray or brownish with white veins.

Aroma and taste: The rind is black: they have a delicate and intense aroma of earth, forest and mushrooms, unlike other summer truffles or white winter truffles. Where the smell is more subtle, black winter truffles convince with much more intense aromas and a slight sweetness and nuttiness, without bitterness and their taste is full, round and pleasant. It can be said that white truffles are 80% aroma and 20% taste. With black truffles it is exactly the opposite, 20% aroma and 80% taste.

3. black summer truffle (Tuber Aestivum Vitt.)

Shape and color: They have a round, irregular shape with a brown or black outer skin and pyramid-shaped tubercles about 3 to 9 mm wide, reminiscent of rough bark. Their flesh can be light, hazelnut-like or brown.

Aroma and taste: The aroma is more delicate than that of black winter truffles and the taste is somewhat similar to that of porcini mushrooms. The flavor or intensity is about 20% of that of black winter truffles (Perigord truffles).

They grow symbiotically with oak, hornbeam, pine, ash, beech and hazel trees.

Harvest: Summer truffles are usually at their best in July, but can also be found from May to October.

What is the difference between white and black truffles?

weisser frischer Trüffel von Di Bennardo

White truffle

People often ask themselves the question: White or black truffle?

White truffles are smooth with a slight yellow hue. They are the spicier of the two, with an intoxicating musk aroma and a garlic-like taste. Both the taste and smell of white truffles can easily overwhelm a dish. Therefore, they are usually sparingly shaved over pasta or used as a garnish. White truffles are served raw, as they lose taste and quality if they are too hot.

Italienischer ganzer schwarzer Sommertrüffel von Di Bennardo

Black truffle

Black truffles have a rough, stiff appearance, similar to the bark of a tree. Its taste is more subtle than that of white truffles, accompanied by an earthy aroma. There are also some light nutty notes. Black truffles are easier to heat and typically go a little better in sauces.

Italienische Präzisionswaage Trüffel von Di Bennardo

How do you store truffles?


To sum up, truffles are expensive for the following reasons:

  • Rare occurrence of soil with wet and exposed soil
  • Presence of certain trees such as hazel, oak, poplar, lime tree
  • Training of animals for truffle hunting such as dogs or pigs
  • Application for the global food market
  • Unique flavour, rarity and perishability of the product
  • High global demand in top gastronomy

What food and wine do white truffles go with?