All About: Truffles! (of the fungus variety)

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Food enthusiasts either gush over the highly-prized musty fungus or complain about its overuse in restaurants today. We are here to tell you we love them (especially shaved on old-fashioned stove top popcorn with a little Parmigiano-Reggiano and butter) and the real story behind these expensive little guys.

1. Truffles are a group of valuable and highly sought-after edible species of underground ascomycetes belonging to the fungal genus Tuber. Because they are a member of the ectomycorrhizal group, they are always found in close proximity to trees. (Black truffles by oak trees; white truffles by oak, hazel, poplar and beech; black summer truffles by oak, hazel and beech)

2. The white truffle is nicknamed the “the diamond of Italy” and is the most flavorful, most aromatic and hardest to find, therefore making it the most expensive!

3. The most expensive truffle ever sold was in Hong Kong in 2006. A property tycoon paid $160,000 for a 3.3 pound truffle!

4. Truffle “researchers” or hunters often search for the prized fungus during the wee hours of the morning when it is more difficult for other hunters to see where their grounds are since once a truffle has spored, new truffles will always grow in that same spot.

5. Not all truffles are created equal. To be sure what you are eating is authentic, stay away from jarred truffles and truffle-infused oils. If you can’t see the shavings on your pasta, chances are it’s not real and that wonderful smell is coming from a synthetic aroma made from a petroleum derivative.

To learn more about truffles and where you can get them in the United States, check out the Appennino Funghi e Tartufi, one of the world’s largest truffle firms.

4 Comments

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4 responses to “All About: Truffles! (of the fungus variety)

  1. Hi,

    I wrote about truffles at the beginning of the truffle season. Although your info is great, you and your readers might find my post interesting, too.

    The archive for that post is in the vault at homemakers.com so I’ll paste it here:
    ______________________________
    The fall truffles are now in season and truffle augmented dishes such as risotto and meat sauces are turning up on swish restaurant menus across the country.

    It’s difficult to understand how some gastronomic delights were ever even discovered to be food stuffs. Truffles are a prime example. If you’ve ever seen a truffle up close, you may wonder what the fuss is all about. At best truffles resemble little lumps of coal and at worst…well, that’s better left unsaid. It’s truly difficult to imagine how hungry a person would need to be to find a truffle in the woods and wonder if it would be yummy with eggs.

    It’s how truffles smell and taste that are the true selling points of these curious little fungi. I could shyly describe their aroma as earthy, but the truth is that the allure of truffles hinges on their sex appeal. That’s right, sex. Truffles prove the point that advertisers have been making for years: sex sells. Truffles contain testoserase, which is chemically similar to testosterone, the ingredient that gives sperm its characteristic smell. This sexy smell drives sows mad; the aroma acts as an aphrodisiac and makes the poor gals urgently want to locate truffles. That’s why truffle hunters often take female pigs on their woodland treks; they make locating truffles easier.

    This aroma affects humans much more subtly but it still elicits a voluptuous, sensuous response that made truffles fashionable with Egyptian Pharohs 4600 years ago, scandalous to medieval religious zealots and popular with hedonistic humans from the Renaissance until today. Composed of over 73% water, truffles are one of the most expensive foods. In fact, in the picture below, my husband Martin is holding about $500 worth of white truffles that he purchased for Pangaea last year. Truffles also have very little nutritional value so the price they command is solely because of their unique taste and evocative perfume.

  2. hallie

    This info stinks!!!! I couldn’t find anyhting I needed to know for my science project.😦

  3. just stumbled across this, what a great article !

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