The tuber magnatum or precious white truffle season starts proper at the beginning of October. However in the weeks before, premature specimens will pop up here and there, an announcement of things to come. These are the fioroni truffles and while they often look just like their mature counterparts, they are a world apart.
When handled, fioroni truffles may feel lighter than you would expect and shaving them over your dish will reveal that the texture is woody. Rather than soft, delicate slivers of pliant flesh, the fioroni truffle will slice into unbending, brittle pieces that crumble and snap.
The colour of the flesh is wrong. The outside of a truffle can vary in colour, some truffles are golden, others are more brownish than their name would give you to believe. Whatever the wrapping, it is the inside flesh that should be fairly standard,. A mature truffle has a light to dark beige flesh (or gleba ) with cream-coloured veining. Fioroni gleba is too pale in colour or may be a greyish shade with pink overtones .
It is the aroma of fioroni truffles that is the real giveaway. They lack the intense scent and the robust flavor that make this rare species so sought after in the culinary world. In a best case scenario they are vaguely reminiscent of the real deal, in the worst, they taste stale with hints of ammonia.
To make matters worse, early stage truffles do not keep well. Regular white truffles already have a very short shelf life, but the fioroni are highly unstable. These truffles will further deteriorate to the point that within a matter of days they are unusable. Problems are compounded if they are exported log distance to Asia, America and Australia. If you have a truffle with all or some of these characteristics then you have been sold a fioroni.
Unfortunately if you buy a truffle early in the season it is likely that you will indeed be sold a fiorone. The pre-season product is definitely not the culinary gem you expect when you order a white truffle, Usually the fioroni make way for better quality truffles around the start of October, sometimes earlier depending on where they are hunted and the year in question. For example, the 2023 white truffle season did not start well and as we moved into the latter half of October, the majority of truffles being found were still fioronati.
Although more and more companies are opting for transparency, there is still a distinctly shady side to the truffle industry. So as long as there is an opportunity for profit, then these immature truffles will end up on the market place. Fioroni truffles are hunted, bought by dealers and passed off as fully mature ones. It is not a crime and it is easy for dealers to do this. White truffles are so expensive that very few people get to deal with large quantities of them. Without the data to form a comparison, it is hard to tell if a truffle is up to par. How many customers have the experience to know for sure that they have been underwhelmed by a truffle? It is hard to rate one if this is your first and most of us are more comfortable with staying quiet rather than appearing ignorant. Likewise it is not a great feeling to suspect you have been duped, it is a lot easier on the ego to to blame our taste buds. So the practice continues, disappointing customers and undermining trust and reputation in the industry along the way.
If you think that you have bought a fioroni, then take photographs or a video of the truffle in question and contact the dealer who sold it to you. You should be offered a refund or a replacement truffle for later in the season. If your dealer won’t budge then you may have to consume the truffle and you will certainly have to change dealer. Although fioroni will not have the culinary allure of mature whites, they are edible so you can use them in dishes like truffle butter or sauces to infuse the mild truffle flavor. Put it down to experience and in future if you are having truffles sent to you, then perhaps wait until late October when the quality of truffles is more stable. Get to know your dealer, there are plenty of decent ones out there and in the meantime help yourself to avoid these kind of scams by learning what you can about the product you are buying. The following video is a good place to start.