When you think of culinary delicacies, truffles will be among the first that come to mind.
What is important to know about them?
How do they taste?
What are their species?
In this article, you will learn about the health benefits of eating them, where you can use them in the kitchen, and lots of other tips.
What exactly is a truffle?
Truffles belong to sought-after culinary delicacies. It is a black or white tuberous mushroom. Their shape often resembles an unsightly or bumpy potato. Inside it hides a very unique aroma and taste. Its aroma, which is unmistakable, reminds one of mustiness or kerosene, which can be unpleasant for many. It is extremely difficult to obtain and loses its potency quickly after harvesting. These factors make truffles one of the most expensive foods in the world.
How are truffles found and harvested?
Truffles, now cultivated and harvested worldwide, grow around the roots of trees in humid regions . Finding truffles can be time-consuming for a person because they are not easy to find underground, even if we know where to look for them. That is why animals have been used for this for centuries.
In the past, truffles were mainly harvested with the help of female pigs because they have a refined sense of smell and truffles contain androstenol, which is a hormone found in the saliva of male pigs. But because pigs like truffles, they often graze half of a very valuable truffle.
Therefore, they were gradually replaced by trained dogs , which, unlike pigs, do not eat truffles. Instead, they rely on receiving treats and rewards in exchange for finding truffles. Like pigs, they have a great sense of smell, and many types of dogs (most hunting and hound breeds) can be easily trained to find truffles. One of the most popular types of truffle-seeking dogs is the Lagotti Romagnoli. It can mine truffles on its own or simply alert people when it detects a strong truffle aroma.
Where do truffles grow?
Truffles grow mainly in the Mediterranean, for example in the Italian regions of Piemonte, Marche, Molie, Abruzzo, in Périogorde in France or in the region of the Istrian peninsula. They are found in oak and other deciduous forests.
You can also find them in the Czech Republic, especially where there is a limestone bedrock. So, for example, Karlštejnsko or the Moravian Karst come to mind. However, their collection is prohibited here, as they are protected.
Why is it appropriate to include truffles in our diet?
Eating truffles has several health benefits such as:
- they reduce oxidative stress
- they slow down the aging process
- protects the liver from damage
- have anticancer potential
- they reduce the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases
- support the immune system with antimicrobial properties
- they are a healthy alternative to meat for vegans and vegetarians
- relieve trachoma and other eye infections
Truffles are also traditionally believed to be an aphrodisiac, but there is no scientific evidence for this.
Nutritional values of truffles
In the following table, look at the nutritional values in 100 g of truffles.
|Nutritional values||Quantity in 100 g of truffles||% of the recommended daily dose|
Vitamins and minerals in truffles
Also look at the amount of minerals and vitamins that truffles contain.
|Vitamins and minerals||Quantity in 100 g of truffles|
|Vitamin A||126 µg|
|Beta carotene||15 µg|
|Vitamin E||0.62 mg|
|Vitamin D||0.2 µg|
|Vitamin C||0.1 mg|
|Vitamin B-6||0.04 mg|
|Vitamin B-12||0.65 µg|
|Vitamin K||5.4 µg|
Types of truffles
There are many varieties of truffles, over 140 in fact, although relatively few have any real market value. Not all types of truffles are commercially available. The simplest division of truffles is by color into black and white. Let’s take a look at the most famous commercial species on the market today.
Tuber Aestivum Vitt. – Black summer truffle
This type of truffle grows all over Europe. It is brown or blackish on the outside. It has an intense aroma, it is a truffle that connoisseurs will appreciate and can be used in many dishes (eggs, pasta, pizza, bruschetta).
Tuber Uncinatum – Black autumn truffle
In Europe, it is also known as the Burgundy truffle, in connection with the usual place of discovery. Its properties are very similar to the black summer truffle. It is large, it can exceed 10 cm in diameter. Its aroma is stronger than that of the black summer truffle, to which it is so similar, and it is characterized by a darker brownish color under the skin and a higher price. Its earthy taste goes well with various pasta and rice dishes or as a complement to meat.
Tuber Melanosporum – Black winter truffle
This is a famous truffle, also known as the so-called Perigold truffle (according to the French region of Perigord). When cut, it is dark brown to black with white veining and is characterized by having the strongest flavor and aroma of all black truffles. During the winter months they can be found in France, Italy and Spain.
Tuber Magnatum Pico – White truffle
This type of truffle is among the most sought after and popular, thanks to its delicacy, but also its unique and incredible aroma and taste. It is very hard to find. They have different shapes and sizes, the most prized is certainly smooth and rounded. Its outer part can be yellow to greenish, sometimes even light ocher. Its inner flesh is yellowish with a tendency to a nutty shade with unmistakable white veins that rarely change to a faint reddish hue. It goes well with pasta, risottos, salads, eggs, sauces, with poultry or other white meat such as rabbit or veal. They are also excellent in combination with hard Italian cheeses, prosciutto or salami.
How much does such a truffle actually cost?
|A type of truffle||Price per kilogram|
|White truffle||over CZK 100,000|
|Black winter truffle||approx. 70,500 CZK|
|Black autumn truffle||approx. 32,000 CZK|
|Black summer truffle||approx. 3,600 CZK|
The most expensive truffle in the world was sold at auction in 2010. It was a white truffle from Italy that weighed 1.3 kg.
Where to buy truffles and how to store them properly?
Buying truffles is not an easy task. Since they are so rare and perishable, it is easiest to forage for truffles yourself or buy them directly from a picker. Depending on where you live and seasonality, you can find them in specialty Italian and gourmet stores or buy them online.
Truffles are perishable, so use them as soon as possible. They begin to lose quality as soon as they are harvested. You can store fresh truffles for several days under the following conditions:
- Place the truffle in an airtight container.
- Add dry rice to the container to absorb the moisture and prevent it from getting soggy.
- Store in the fridge for up to five days. Of course, the sooner you eat the truffle, the better it will taste.
How to properly work with truffles in the kitchen?
- Truffles must never be cooked or heated, instead they are grated before serving and sprinkled over hot cooked food to activate their distinct flavor and aroma (this is especially true for white truffles ).
- as for black truffles , we can enhance their flavor by very gentle cooking, such as mixing them into the sauce and heating them at the end of cooking
- add them to delicate recipes to give them a shine, such as cream sauces and potato-based dishes
- use a mandolin to get the thinnest slices possible
- do not mix truffles with strong cheeses
- it is recommended to always use extra virgin olive oil and salt when dressing
- we do not use truffles directly for spicy dishes , such as grilled meat and fish
Where in the kitchen are truffles used?
White truffle is used in the preparation of salads, on eggs or in an omelette.
Use in recipes:
Black truffle is most often used to flavor pasta, risotto, poultry, sauces, pâté, galantine or foie grais.
Use in recipes:
How do truffles taste?
Although their flavor and aroma vary by variety, truffles generally have a mushroomy, musky, oaky, nutty, earthy flavor. Black truffles are associated with chocolate notes, while white truffles are a bit more pungent, with a flavor and aroma that can resemble garlic or shallot. Truffles from different parts of the world will have subtly different flavors and aromas due to the unique environment in which they are each grown, including the specific characteristics of the soil, the types of trees they are associated with, and the time of year they are harvested.
Truffle oil is olive oil infused with truffles. Since it’s long-lasting and slightly cheaper than fresh truffles, it’s an easy way to add a luxurious twist to home cooking. If you’ve ever ordered a truffle dish at a restaurant (such as truffle fries) and you don’t see any shavings or chunks, it was probably made with truffle oil.
Some truffle oil is made from real black or white truffles, but modern truffle oil is often made with synthetic ingredients. An aromatic additive called 2,4-dithiapentane is found in many commercial oils.
Truffle butter is simply butter mixed with truffle oil or truffle chunks. This luxurious butter – which can be bought in gourmet shops or made at home – is wonderfully creamy, spreadable and full of truffle flavour. You can use truffle butter just like regular butter: Try it in savory appetizers, side dishes, and more. However, since it is much more expensive than regular butter, you may want to save it for special occasions.
Truffle salt is made by mixing traditional salt with pieces of white or black truffle. While the truffle aroma is tightly sealed in the container, it permeates the salt, giving truffle salt that distinctive earthy truffle flavor we all know and love. Therefore, real truffle salt has real pieces of truffle, anything else is probably flavored with synthetic chemicals. Similar to truffle oil, truffle salt is used in the kitchen as a finishing touch. With a few grains of this salt, you can enrich the taste of whatever you are cooking. Compared to truffle oils, truffle salts tend to have a milder flavor and aroma.
Truffle honey also known as miele al tartufo is basically honey that has been infused with a slice or more of a truffle. Acacia or chestnut honey is usually used. It goes well with cheeses, salty meats and crackers. You can also drizzle it over ice cream, fruit and other desserts.
Today, truffles are grown in the temperate regions of Mediterranean Europe, western North America and Australia. They reach some of the world’s best restaurants within days (sometimes hours) of being harvested.
The possibility of growing truffles has always been a subject of great interest in different parts of the world due to their high value. Today, only a handful of truffle farms exist. Farmers grow truffles by inoculating tree roots with truffle spores and then harvest the truffles in 6 to 7 years. This technique was first recorded in 1969. However, growing truffles requires a complex combination of suitable weather conditions, soil chemistry and a bit of luck to grow successfully. As a result, returns from truffle cultivation remain uncertain and can prove to be a risky investment for farmers.
The history of truffles
The truffle has come a long way since it was first discovered. Long ago, the Egyptians used the truffle as an edible ingredient, although there is no real evidence to prove when it was originally found. Even in ancient Egypt, truffles were considered gourmet foods. They were usually covered in goose fat and enjoyed as a delicacy on their own, not often added to other dishes at this time.
The ancient Egyptians invented a myth that is related to the popularity of truffles. It is said that when a farmer noticed a pig playing in the dirt near the roots of a certain tree, he went to see what was so interesting and found the pig going after a delicious mushroom. Shortly after he ate a bite of the truffle, he and his wife were blessed with several children. Legend has it that truffles started growing on this particular tree because it was struck by lightning and thus touched by the gods.
Greece and Rome
The popularity of truffles was also carried over to Greek and Roman times. Due to their strong aroma and taste, they were considered medicinal and were even said to have mythical properties. They were often given to upper class nobles and other important people to keep their souls and bodies strong and healthy. At this time, they started to be incorporated into other dishes for the first time.
Of course, a lot has happened between the time of ancient Rome and today! In the Middle Ages, truffles began to be considered something undesirable. Many people at the time believed they were evil and pagan and to be avoided at all costs. This is probably due to the myth of their discovery. They were also often associated with witches, who were also evil.
After the Middle Ages, during the Renaissance, King Louis XIV. brought truffles back into the public eye. He was very fond of truffles, and because of their first-rate taste, the rest of Europe soon followed suit and began rediscovering this mythical mushroom. Louis XIV he even tried to grow them himself, although it didn’t work very well. Throughout his reign, they began to appear more and more often in dishes for the nobility.
The period between World War I and World War II
When World War I hit Europe, many of the trees where truffles had grown for centuries were destroyed and the land was burned beyond repair. By the time World War II ended, much of the land historically used to grow truffles had been completely destroyed and the truffle crop was gone.
In the 1960s and 1970s, France became more active in trying to bring back the truffle crop. She began developing methods to encourage the trees to grow more truffles. Although a slow process and still being perfected, it has changed the way truffles are grown in the area.
Now truffles are still very hard to find. There are only a handful of places left in Europe where they thrive, and this of course adds to their price. Although we have come a long way in agriculture, we still haven’t figured out a way to fully cultivate and grow truffles. Most still depends on the acidity in the soil, as well as the amount of rainfall and even the temperature of the seasons, all of which make it very difficult to maintain a steady crop of truffles.