Truffles are classified as ectomycorrhizal fungi, which is a fancy way of saying they typically reside closely to the roots of trees. In order to keep the species (truffles are part of the Ascomycete fungus), spores are dispersed by fungivores—fungi-consuming animals.
Valued the world over
The name comes from the Latin word, tuber, which translates to swelling or lump. The fungi are prized in cooking around the world, particularly in Middle Eastern, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek and Georgian cuisine—not to mention contemporary North American.
It’s all in the colour
Types of truffles include white, black, summer or burgundy, and the less common garlic and pecan truffles.
Specially trained truffle hogs are used to source truffles, although the practice has been banned in Italy since 1985 as the hogs were damaging truffle’s mycelia (its vegetative component). The hogs have a keen sense of smell and an innate ability to sniff out the truffles, although dogs have been trained to do the task in more recent years. Pigs will often be tempted to eat the truffles once they discover them, whereas dogs are easier to control in this regard.
Truffles have been dubbed “the diamond of the kitchen” by French gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, and they can be pricey enough to live up to that statement. The most expensive white truffle was purchased for $330 000 during an auction held simultaneously in Macau, Hong Kong and Florence. It weighed 1.5 kg (3.3 lb) and was unearthed near Pisa, Italy.
It might be tasty
Truffle oil has become a popular cost-effective substitute for whole truffles, as it is often made from synthetic ingredients. However, truffle vodka can carry the true flavour without the aid of synthetic flavourings. The first variety was manufactured by Black Moth Vodka, which consisted of natural vodka infused with black Périgord truffles. V