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White Truffles

White Truffles
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The "white truffle" or "trifola d'Alba" comes from the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont region in northern Italy and, most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti; in Italy it can also be found in Molise, Abruzzo, and in the hills around San Miniato, in Tuscany. It is also found on the Istria peninsula, in Croatia in the Motovun forest along the Mirna river, and in Slovenia along the Dragonja and Rizana river, as well as in the Drome area in France.

Growing symbiotically with oak, hazel, poplar and beech and fruiting in autumn, they can reach 12 cm  diameter and 500 g, though are usually much smaller. The flesh is pale cream or brown with white marbling. Italian white truffles are very highly esteemed and are the most valuable on the market: The white truffle market in Alba is busiest in the months of October and November when the Fiera del Tartufo takes place. In 2001, the Tuber magnatum truffles sold for between 1000–2200 USD per pound (2000–4500 USD per kg); as of December 2009 they were being sold at 14,203.50 USD per kilogram.

Giancarlo Zigante and his dog Diana found one of the largest truffles in the world near Buje, Croatia. The truffle weighed 1.31 kilograms and has entered the Guinness Book of Records.

The record price paid for a single white truffle was set in December 2007, when Macau casino owner Stanley Ho paid 330,000 USD for a specimen weighing 1.5 kilograms, discovered by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco. One of the largest truffles found in decades, it was unearthed near Pisa, Italy and sold at an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong and Florence. This record was then matched on November 27, 2010 when Ho again paid 330,000 USD for a pair of white truffles, including one weighing nearly a kilogram.

The Tuber magnatum pico white truffle is found mostly in northern and central Italy, while the Tuber borchii, or whitish truffle, is found in Tuscany, Abruzzo, Romagna, Umbria, the Marche and Molise. Neither of these is as aromatic as those from Piedmont, although those from Città di Castello come quite close.

Truffles are rare. The white ones are only available a couple of months of the year, almost exclusively from one part of Italy, where they must be foraged by special pigs, and there are fewer of them, and of lesser quality, every year. They are, in short, the perfect luxury commodity, precious and getting more so all the time.

There's no question that white truffles have a unique aroma, a combination of newly plowed soil, fall rain, burrowing earthworms and the pungent memory of lost youth and old love affairs. The most eloquent was Alex Guarnaschelli of Butter, a highly fashionable restaurant in New York City that caters to a moneyed clientele. The way truffles smell is "disconcerting," she says. "It conjures up images of a locker room. But the aroma deceptively conceals their complex yet delicate taste. They are sublime." Guarnaschelli shaves them over risotto or mashed potatoes, and likes them a little warm; other chefs find a little creamy or buttery pasta the perfect vehicle. They are all as careful in their handling of it as a museum curator moving the Mona Lisa. 

Although truffles are very expensive, there are more reasons to eat it aside from the fact that it is very exciting to eat a delicacy. One of these reasons is you are eating truffles because these may bring you health benefits.

Through the years, contentions have been hounding the health benefits and nutritional value of truffles and mushrooms, in general. People say that edible mushrooms such as truffles have no nutritional value at all and these are used just to add flavor to a variety of staple dishes.

However, more recent studies show that truffles and other types of mushrooms can bring a lot of health benefits especially to vegetarians, people who don’t eat meat and only consume vegetables.

Technically, truffles are mushrooms that don’t have stems and are usually found under the ground usually under oak, pine, beech, and pecan trees mostly in Europe including various parts of Italy, France, Slovenia and Croatia. In Asia, some varieties are found in China as well as in Middle East while there are also some types native to North Africa.

So far, truffles are used only in the culinary field—as main ingredient to various dishes or as flavoring and garnishes to different specialties. The most common gourmet edible truffles that are being used in various restaurants include the French Black Truffles, the Italian White Truffles, the Chinese Truffles, and the Summer Truffles.

It is a good source of high protein. Truffles have high protein content ranging from 20 to 30 percent for every serving. Experts say that truffles are excellent sources of high protein content which it very ideal because these contain all the amino acids essential to good nutrition for humans. For people who don’t consume fats and carbohydrates—especially to those who are having Western diets—truffles are very ideal since it is an excellent source of protein.

It is also a moderate source of carbohydrates. The main component of truffles and mushrooms in general is carbohydrates composed of glycogen and chitin or also called the “fungus cellulose” which is a structural component of the fungal cell wall.  However, compared to other vegetables, truffles have lower proportions of carbohydrates. This is also very good for people suffering from diabetes because truffles have low value of energy.

It is low in fat. Since it is vegetable, truffles are perfect for people who cannot and don’t want to consume too much fat. When dried, it has only about two to eight percent of fat which are mostly crude fat and lipid compounds such as fatty acids, sterols, phospholipids, glycerides and linoleic acid.

It is cholesterol free. This is probably the biggest health benefit of truffles. Through the years, cholesterol has been considered as of the risk factors of coronary heart conditions and other related diseases. If you are prone to stroke or heart attack or you have a family history any heart condition, it would be great to consume cholesterol free food such as truffles to help you lower your total cholesterol levels.

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