The burgundy truffle, scientific name Tuber uncinatum, is a truffle species that can be found all over Europe. One area where they are harvested is Southern Italy, where burgundy truffles have a dark skin that is very similar to the one of summer truffles.
However, they mature later than summer truffles, which might also explain why their taste and flavour is also superior. Burgundy truffles have light flesh, with a milky chocolate color that is crossed by white veins.
Like all truffle varieties, the burgundy truffles are very expensive and highly praised in cooking for their strong aroma that resembles hazelnuts. In the gourmet cuisine of Italy and France, they are often used as a replacement for the more valuable T. melanosporum (the black truffles). Burgundy truffles can also be exported in canned form.
The bodies of burgundy truffles (scientifically named ascocarps) are quite large in size, with a diameter between 2 and 10 cm. The peridium (exterior skin) looks similar to rough tree bark, with a black or brown color and covered in small warts with a pyramid shape.
The harvesting season of burgundy truffle starts in September and lasts until the end of December, in some cases until late January. Burgundy truffles are widely distributed in Europe and are more common than any other variety.
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They are found in all of Europe as well as North Africa, the limits of its range being Spain, Sweden and Eastern Europe. North Italy and north-eastern France are particularly rich in truffles. They are rare today in the United Kingdom, where they used to be common.
One reason for its extended range is that the burgundy truffle is able to live in symbiosis with many tree species. These include the truffle hornbeam and the truffle black pine, the truffle oaks and the truffle hazel. During the Renaissance, it was the only truffle species that was cooked and served to the kings of France.
Several truffle species exist and there are significant differences between them. Most of them have low value and grow in the wild. However, three varieties are extremely expensive and are gathered from wild habitats and can be cultivated as well.
The most expensive type of truffle is the black one, which requires soils with good drainage and warm climates. The white or Bianchetto truffle likes soils with a high content of sand. Finally, burgundy truffles enjoy cooler climates than the others.
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All three varieties can be cultivated and need natural organic soils uncontaminated by fertilizers. Due to their very high cost, truffles are cultivated today both in Europe and in North America. Besides their delicious taste, these special mushrooms provide numerous health benefits and have a high nutritional value.
All truffles have been a very popular cooking ingredient since ancient times and remain one of the most famous foods today. Modern scientists have also investigated their composition and isolated many bioactive compounds such as polysaccharides, phenolics, ergosterol and tuberoside anandamide.
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In addition to their well-known aphrodisiac properties, truffles were found to have immunomodulatory, antitumour, antimicrobial, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. However, truffles are extremely expensive due to their rarity. Some varieties like the Périgord or black truffle and the white Tuber magnatum are basically available only to very wealthy people.
The unique flavour of truffles has been known for thousands of years. Today, they are also classified as a super food because of the strong anti-aging and antioxidant effects. The big global medical and pharmaceutical companies have recently invested in multiple studies on the medical benefits of burgundy truffles.
They were found to have many useful effects, boosting immunity, improving cardiovascular health, fighting cancer and balancing cholesterol levels. In addition, burgundy truffles reduce sleep disorders, rheumatic pains and food intolerance, improve sexual performance and fight the effects of aging.
Burgundy truffles are famous for their taste but their nutritional qualities are excellent as well. They are extremely rich in proteins, which make up between 20 and 30 percent of every serving. All of the amino acids that are essential for a healthy diet are present in truffles, which are a great source of high-quality proteins.
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Truffles provide some carbohydrates but the amount is average. They mainly consist of fungus cellulose, which is a variety of chitin that is found in the structure of mushroom cell walls, as well as carbohydrates derived from glycogen.
Truffles have a lower content of carbohydrates than most types of vegetables and fruits. The very low energy value is ideal for diabetes patients, who must limit their intake of carbohydrates as much as possible.
Similar to most plant-based foods, burgundy truffles are low in fats and are recommended for people who want to consume a reduced amount o fat. Dried burgundy truffles only include lipid compounds and crude fats such as phospholipids, glycerides, linoleic acid, fatty acids and sterols. The total amount is between 2 and 8 percent.
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Burgundy truffles are completely free of cholesterol, which is one of their most important nutritional qualities. Modern medicine has established that cholesterol causes numerous serious conditions such as coronary heart diseases.
People who have a family history of heart attacks or a increased personal risk of strokes must do everything they can to eat foods low in cholesterol. Burgundy truffles supply no cholesterol at all, so they are one of the best diet choices.
Like all truffles, burgundy truffles are edible and a highly praised ingredient, even if not as expensive as the Perigord truffles or the Piedmont white truffle that are considered the best.
Due to their extremely expensive cost, truffles are only used in limited amounts and just shaved to flavour dishes. In order to maximize the taste, fruiting bodies are transformed into so-called truffle oil and sprayed on top of food. However, real truffle oil is almost never available due to the high cost and commercial products use a synthetic replacement that imitates the real taste.
Burgundy truffles are rarely cooked; they are used in raw form and shaved over other ingredients. They serve as a flavoring agent for meat recipes and sauces, as well as potatoes, pasta, rice or eggs.
The fresh burgundy truffle mushrooms can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Wrap them loosely in paper towels or place them in a container with uncooked rice. However, they are best consumed as fresh as possible, a week or less after harvest.
Burgundy truffles are ectomycorrhizal and only grow on alkaline soils, usually under beech trees but sometimes under oaks as well. Most truffles are found in the southern regions of Europe and burgundy truffles are the most numerous there as well. However, they also grow in the north of the continent and can be harvested in Scandinavia.
All truffles have a symbiotic relationship with the host tree, which benefits both of them. They cover the tree roots, which helps them extract minerals and water in greater amounts than normal, feeding the entire plant. In exchange, the tree produces sugar and other nutrients through photosynthesis and passes some of them to the truffle.
Truffles can be cultivated but it's not an easy task. Many other fungus species provide the same benefits to trees but grow a lot easier, so it is very difficult for truffles to compete with them. It is not possible to remove the other fungus species without harming the truffles as well.
The key challenge of truffle cultivation is to create a perfect environment for them, in which these delicate mushrooms can eliminate the other species. These are several methods to achieve this goal, the most important being to select the ideal location where other fungus species are unable to grow properly.
The tree seedlings used in cultivation are already inoculated with truffles, in order to give them the best chance of development. In addition, the soil environment must be perfectly suited for truffles but not for any other competitor species.
A common trick is to artificially make the soil more alkaline by adding lime to it. Most fungi are unable to survive in soils with a very high pH level but truffles are perfectly adapted to such conditions.