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.