Truffles only emerge from the soil twice a year, can’t be cultivated, require pigs or dogs to hunt them down in the wild, and only grow in chalky European soil in specific climate bands. In other words, they’re hard to find, and thus wildly expensive—an ounce of fresh white truffle can run you $200. White truffles grow in Italy, specifically the northwest Piedmont region, and are renowned for their intense earthy, umami character that takes over a room as soon as the fungus is pierced, which is why they’re usually shaved over dishes like pasta as a fragrant garnish. However, this aroma fades quickly, and the truffle itself tastes much more subtle.
Black truffles, which grow in the Perigord region of France, are less potent in aroma, but that aroma sticks around for longer, so the mushrooms are commonly mixed into compound butters or sauces. Black truffles are also much less expensive, about half the price of white depending on market prices. But which one you buy depends on what you’re looking for—abundant truffle aroma that takes over a dish, or a milder ingredient that enhances everything around it.