What Are Truffle Mushrooms? And Where Do Truffles Come From?

Deepthi Reddy
Jan 17, 2023 By Deepthi Reddy
Originally Published on Oct 27, 2021
Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala
Black truffles in wooden bowl on grey table.

Truffles belong to the fungi family, Ascomycota, and are spore-producing organs.

In terms of function, truffles are much like mushrooms and are edible. The difference is that truffles grow under the soil.

The primary function of truffles is to grow spores to give rise to new offspring. Truffles have a unique look, but they are only one of the varieties of mushrooms. They are round and have a fruiting body with spores.

If you are still confused with the name related to chocolate, all you need to know is that truffles are one of the different types of mushrooms. In the past, this mushroom was used as a medicine. But as time went on, food experts' culinary skills have made truffles an essential part of pasta.

Truffles have a pungent smell yet a rich aroma. In addition to the strong, pungent smell, truffles are known for their nutrients and many health benefits.

They are either white or black and are easily found in the dense forest regions of the Northern Hemisphere, France, Italy, and the Balkans. The body is yellowish, tan, or dark brown, and has shallow to deep lines.

If you enjoyed this article, also read about where do tomato worms come from? And where does cotton come from? Here on Kidadl.

What exactly are truffles and where do they hail from?

When we say truffle, it might remind you of chocolate treats, but you will be amazed to know it is a fungus and mushroom. Truffles are tubers, and they are either white or black, depending on the season.

White truffles are harvested from the end of September to early January. Black truffles vary depending on season and their specific variety.

The truffles naturally grow from the fruiting bodies of fungi that grow on the host trees' roots; this is known as a symbiotic relationship. Truffles tuber or fungus explores minerals, nutrients, and water that it passes to the tree.

The host tree, in exchange, provides sugar to the fungus, which it produces through the process of photosynthesis. Truffle fungus and the tree depend on each other for their food source.

Many species of tree can serve as a host for the fungus and vice versa. Truffles usually grow in the calcareous soil attached near the roots of the broadleaved trees like hazelnut and oak.

You might have come across the white truffles in an exotic delicacy, but did you know they are one of the costliest food items on the planet?

Truffles are found in the wild; they grow underground and spread the tubers outward. Truffles have a unique scent that attracts fungivores to them.

They are found in both the north and south of continents. In the Northern Hemisphere, animals like small mammals, rabbits, pigs, squirrels, and mice eat truffles. In the Southern Hemisphere, truffles are eaten by armadillos, kangaroos, meerkats, and rats.

Large mammals like deer, bears, baboons, pigs, and wallabies also eat truffles. When consumed, some flesh is digested while some are released from the body undamaged.

These spores then return to the soil through animal feces. The spores present in the feces are deposited in the nearby area and try to find their way to the roots of the host trees present in the ecosystem.

Truffles do not grow in poop, but they find their way from the spores present in the animal poop to the roots of its host tree.

Unlike most other plants that convert sunlight into energy by photosynthesis, truffles depend on the host trees for their nutrients. This symbiotic relationship between the roots of the tree and the fungi is known as mycorrhizae.

Also, truffles are healthy. They are rich in carbs, protein, fiber, vitamin C, sodium, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, and iron. 

Where in Italy do truffles come from?

Truffles belong to the fungi kingdom, a mushroom with fruiting bodies (a spore-producing organ). Truffles grow underground; they do not have a stem or extra spore-bearing surface. The spore itself is the root and fruit.

In Italy, you can find truffles in different areas like Irpinia, Le Marche, and Lazio. The leading variety producer of quality truffles is the Piedmont region due to the soil, which has ideal conditions (rich in calcium, humid and soft). These truffles are also known as French black truffles.

The best region to harvest the high-quality white truffle is Alba, Monferrato, Langhe, and Roero.

Perugia is one of the most beautiful Italian provinces where truffle hunters wander in the frosty mountains in search of truffles. Their trained dogs sniff out this spore-bearing, fruit mushroom when they are ripe, a tradition that has been done for centuries.

But did you know, the word truffle in Italy is known as ‘Tartufo.’ It is taken from the Latin word, which means tuber or a lump. Truffles grow best in humid and colder regions; the truffles are also located in the cold mountain forest regions of Umbria, central parts of Tuscany, and Le Marche.

They are found growing below the host tree roots of hazelnut, oak, poplar, and willow trees.

There are in total, nine varieties of truffles that we can eat. But the main varieties only grow during the winter season and are usually named based on the color of the fruit, like white or black.

The best region to find white truffles in abundance is Langhe province. It is located near the city of Alba in Piedmont. They can also be found in Le Marche, Umbria, and Tuscany. Due to the favorable unique microclimate and required soil conditions, the area is full of truffle as you find here poplars, oak, and willow trees.

The black truffle color varies from dark brown to black, and an outer cover with a reddish shade. The inside part is dark with white stripes. The best regions to locate these truffles are Umbria and Norcia, where farmers grow truffles.

Where do the best truffles come from?

Truffles are spore-bearing fruit and prefer cold regions. They are found attached to the tree roots of host plants for their survival. 

Truffles are native to Europe and are harvested here, mainly because truffles prefer cold climates. 

The best truffles come from Italy, France, and the Pacific Northwest. The rarest and the best truffle fruit is found in Italy and France only, and in fact, they are the most expensive on the whole planet.

White truffles are native to Italy. Alba in Italy is known as the white truffle capital of the world. The truffles in this northern Italian province grow naturally. Every year, the truffle fair is held here for six weeks and happens to be the oldest truffle fair celebration in the entire world.

The world-famous black truffle is found in Villefranche-du-Perigord in France. These black truffles are also referred to as Diamonds of Perigord. The black truffle here is enormous and weighs around 2.86 lb (1.3 kg).

The best truffles are found in the Pacific Northwest, which often grows under Douglas fir trees, growing abundantly in North America from to southern Washington. These truffles are referred to as Oregon truffles as they are primarily found in the Oregon region.

In the Southern Hemisphere, Manjimup in Australia is famous for growing the largest Perigord Truffles. Farmers can grow truffles here due to the cool climate and the rich fertile soil, making it favorable.

The truffle is harvested in Australia is from June to September. There is also a truffle celebration held here in Manjimup. Australia uses Tuber melanosporum fungi on trees to harvest truffles.

In the United Kingdom, the south coast boasts a lot of truffle hunting options. The cool climate, favorable soil and the many forests support the growth of truffle here. You can find them in Cornwall, Hertfordshire, and Gloucestershire.

Where do the most expensive truffles come from?

Do you love truffles? Hunting for truffles is a hobby for all truffle lovers and can be sold in the market.

Truffle is considered an exotic delicacy and comes at a high price because of its rare quality. Truffle adds flavors to luxury food meals as they are rare to find and add a unique mushroomy, earthy, and pungent taste it gives. Some use less expensive truffle oil to add flavor.

Fascinatingly, you can compare the price of truffles to that of gold. In 2016, a white truffle (Tuber magnatum) weighing around 4.14 lb (1.88 kg), the world's largest truffle, was sold for $61,250 at the Sotheby's auction.

This particular truffle was one of the most expensive truffles sold in the world. The person who brought the high-end truffles was a bidder from China.

What a crazy price for a mushroom, right? The reason is these truffles are so scarce. They are found hidden in the cold high mountain regions under the ground of the host trees. It is tough to find them, and trained dogs have to sniff out the ripe truffles.

As for white truffles (Tuber magnatum), they are considered the rarest species; they are grown only in a few areas in Italy, Croatia, and Slovenia. This rare species grows from October to December. The price of the truffle depends on their size and the aroma they give. So, it is nothing surprising as to why they cost so high.

Why are truffles remarkably rare? The main reasons are the season, the climate, and the soil. They start to grow from September till December, which is a brief period, so many people involved in this work tend to find as much truffle as they can during this season.

Fascinatingly, the truffle finders will never tell you where they found the truffles. If your luck favors, you will find them waiting for you when you come back next season.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what are truffle mushrooms? And where do truffles come from?

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Written by Deepthi Reddy

Master of Business Administration

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Deepthi ReddyMaster of Business Administration

With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.

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Fact-checked by Amatullah Gulbargawala

Bachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah Gulbargawala picture

Amatullah GulbargawalaBachelor of Arts specializing in English, Bachelor of Education specializing in the Language Arts

Amatullah is a passionate student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Education from Ashoka College of Education. With a keen interest in literature, she has excelled in elocution competitions and is an accomplished writer. She has completed courses like "History of English Language and Literature", "Introduction to Western Political Thought and Theory", and "Development of Soft Skills and Personality". In her free time, Amatullah enjoys reading books and writing poetry.

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