We all have heard about truffles being an expensive delicacy. What do truffles taste like? Where are they found? How often can we eat them? How to buy them? Many questions need to be answered. In this article, we are discussing everything about truffles.
1. What Are Truffles?
Real truffles are spores of a fungus called Tuberaceae. They grow underground. These are the fruiting body of edible fungi. They are somewhat similar to mushrooms in their appearance. So people always get confused between them. Unlike truffles, mushrooms are found above the ground and can be cultivated easily without any trouble.
2. How Are They Grown?
It is a cumbersome task to cultivate truffles. They are suited for damp places. As their demand is very high People started producing them globally. They can be grown around tree roots. Earlier mentioned they are spores, these spores have tendrils or filaments which they spread around as they like. Thus their harvesting is not that easy.
Androstenol is a hormone present in the saliva of male pigs. They are found in truffles also. So female pigs can be used for harvesting truffles. But the challenge is pigs usually eat them. So it won’t be profitable for cultivators to use pigs for harvest. Dogs are trained to find the truffles. They can sniff out truffles and in return reward them with any treats.
3. Varieties of Truffles
There are several varieties of truffles. But there are only two categories. They are white or black truffles. Now let’s look in detail.
3.1. Black Truffle(Tuber melanosporum)
Truffles are expensive, black truffles are the ones that are less expensive compared to others. They don’t have an intense aroma. When heated their flavor stands out. They are used for making truffle butter. They can be used in sauces and even in risotto.
3.1.1. Black Winter Truffle
Black winter truffle is also known as “Perigord Truffle”. They are cultivated around Italy and France. They have a soft texture and taste like chocolate. Mostly they are grown under oak trees so there are chances of them having an oaky taste as well.
3.1.2. Black Summer Truffle
They are also known as Truffle de la St. Jean. They are also similar to black summer truffles, the season in which they are harvested is the only difference they have.
3.2. White Truffle(Tuber magnatum)
Italian white truffles are the expensive ones. They are found in Northern Italy. They have an intense aroma and lighter flavor than black truffles. They are scarce which makes them more expensive. Because of the subtle flavor, they are eaten fresh.
3.2.1. White Winter Truffle
They are the “White Truffle from Alba”. They got this because they are grown in Alba and Piedmont, Italy. They have a garlic flavor.
3.2.2. White Summer Truffle
They got “Marzuili truffles” as another name. The only difference they have with white winter truffles is the time of harvest. Summer-harvested ones are better in taste than winter ones.
4. What Do Truffles Taste Like?
The taste of truffles can’t be described in a single word. They have an umami flavor with a distinct flavor of flowers. They are earthy and musky-like mushrooms.
4.1. How Are They Used?
White truffles are used in sauces and risotto to give a unique flavor. They can also be served raw. Black truffles with scrambled eggs are an undeniable combo. If you are new to truffles, try them along with pasta. They go well with each other. Always choose organic truffles without artificial flavorings for great taste. You can grate or shave them on top of pasta with a truffle cutter or grater. Steak and truffles are also good because of the umami flavor of truffles.
5. Choosing a Truffle
The first thing to consider while choosing truffles is to sniff them properly and get an idea about the aroma. Sellers use weight as the parameter. Carefully choose truffles without clay deposits on their holes, they will add up to their weight. Watch out for insects whether they got stuck inside the truffles.
Choose an airtight container to store fresh truffles after harvesting. You can store them in rice after cleaning them with kitchen paper. Rice will absorb the moisture content and prevent them from perishing. It will be fine for almost one week. Because of short shelf life don’t store them for more than one week. Truffles tend to get spoiled. You can also refrigerate them.
6. Different Truffle Based Items
6.1. Truffle Oil
Truffle oil is nothing but olive oil infused with strong-tasting truffles. Compared to fresh truffles they are more affordable. Truffle fries are usually made with truffle oil, so we can’t find truffle shavings in them. For oils, you can choose black truffles as well as white truffles. Now synthetic oils are available with 2,4-dithiapentane added.
6.2. Truffle Butter
Truffle oil or truffle pieces can be mixed with butter to get truffle butter. It is as useful as normal butter. Its creamy texture and truffle flavor make it suitable for spreads. You can prepare them at home with very less effort. All gourmet stores will have a stock of truffle butter.
6.3. Truffle Vodka
The molecules in truffles that are responsible for aroma are not alcohol soluble. Truffle pieces can be added to vodka. These truffle vodka can be made at home and are popular among vodka lovers.
6.4. Truffle Salt
This salt is popular among truffle products. It is a mixture of salt and truffle pieces. It doesn’t give that intense truffle flavor like truffle oil. But it can be used in dishes as they give essential truffle flavor.
6.5. Truffle Aioli
Truffle aioli can be made with truffle pieces, mayonnaise, garlic, and lemon juice. Mix the ingredients to get a cream. Truffle aioli can be paired with burgers or sandwiches.
6.6. Truffle Fries
Drizzle truffle oil on freshly fried fries and can also use truffle aioli for this dish. Aioli will give the creamy texture.
6.7. Truffle Popcorn
When you are going for a movie popcorn is a must. What about popcorn with a truffle twist? Just drizzle some truffle oil over the popcorn. Sprinkle some truffle salt on top if needed.
6.8. Truffle Cream Cheese
Cream cheese, salt, and pepper are mixed with truffle oil. Sour cream can give a different punch to the dish.
7. Nutrients in Truffles
This nutrient-rich expensive food item has nutrients like protein, fat, calcium, magnesium, and manganese. Vitamin C is also present in them.
7.1. Fight Cancer Cells
Studies say truffles can protect you from cancer. They can destroy cancer cells. In women, cervical and breast cancer can be fought with the help of truffles.
The gallic acid, homogentisic acid, and lycopene present in truffles can help destroy cancer cells. These antioxidants can also diminish inflammation in some cases.
The aphrodisiac property of black truffles is quite popular. They can be used to treat any reproduction-related complications.
8. How to Eat Truffles?
You can try simply to complex recipes with truffles. To make truffles stand out choose a simple recipe. Clean the truffle before cooking. Clean off all dirt from them. You can grate them using a grater to get fine pieces. Black truffles can be heated to release their flavor. White truffles are served raw. They are suitable for garnishing once cooking is over. The heat of freshly cooked food can bring out its flavor. Try to pair truffles with cream or butter to have the best flavor.
While cooking fresh truffles try to limit acid usage. Acid and spices can fade the truffle flavor. Never overcook truffles as they will destroy their natural taste and texture. Pair it with any simple ingredients either rice or fresh pasta. Eggs and cauliflowers can also be paired with truffles.
9. How to Buy Truffles?
If any supermarkets sell exotic gourmets then you can find truffles there. If not, don’t worry many online sources have truffles from genuine cultivators.
9.1. Chocolate Truffles
The origin of chocolate truffles was an expensive mistake. An apprentice of Auguste Escoffier accidentally poured hot cream over chocolate. They mixed them and let them cool down. After cooling they are shaped into balls and coated with cocoa powder. Thus chocolate truffles originated. Their shape and texture resemble the fungi so they got the same name. Many varieties of truffles are there and each of them differs in their fillings. Chocolate, cream, caramel, and nuts are used as fillings for truffles.
10. Interesting Facts
40 species of truffles are recognized now.
Truffles prefer a soil of pH 7.5 to 8.3.
The aromatic compounds found in truffles give them an aroma. One of the chemicals that overpower others is 2-methyl butanal. The microbes inside the truffles also have their contribute to their aroma.
Tuber is a genus of fungus and truffles are also members of this Tuber genus.
Unlike mushrooms, truffles can’t disperse their spores in rain or wind. Animals help in their reproduction. When animals consume them, their spores are dispersed by animal feces.
Truffles have a symbiotic relationship with other trees under which they are grown. The fungi provide nutrients to the trees and in return trees provide them carbohydrates.
Some people are sensitive to the intense aroma of the fungi while others enjoy truffles.
11. Truffle Recipes
There is a wide range of truffle recipes available in the culinary world that you can try out at home. You can choose black or white truffles according to your choice and taste. Some delicious food recipes are given below.
11.1. Truffle Mushroom Risotto
Risotto is a rice dish that has a creamy consistency. They are native to Northern Italy.
First, saute your finely chopped shallots butter. Add the rice and toast them for a minute. Add the wine for deglazing. Don’t stop stirring. Only continuous stirring can ensure risotto’s consistency.
At the same time cook mushrooms in oil and butter. After the risotto is done add the cooked mushrooms, remaining cheese, mascarpone, and butter.
11.2. Sauteed Mushrooms and Truffle Salt Crostini
Extra virgin olive oil
Grated lemon zest
Clean the mushrooms well and cook them well in olive oil. Cook them until they turn golden. After that add butter, garlic, and thyme. Let the butter get absorbed. Take the vessel out of the heat. Squeeze some lemon juice over it. Toast bread slices and spread mascarpone cheese. Mushrooms can be used as toppings. For seasoning use truffle salt and chives.
Truffles are fungi that are grown underground. They are very expensive to buy. They are cultivated on a large scale because of their high demand. Trained canines are required for their harvest. Due to their complex cultivation and harvesting, they are considered very rare. There exist two categories of truffles, black and white. White truffles are more expensive. Truffles smell strong due to the presence of many volatile compounds. The microbes present in truffles also produce some aromatic compounds. There are many truffle products available in the market, like truffle salt, truffle butter, truffle vodka, truffle aioli, etc. Truffles are nutrient-rich. The antioxidants in them help in fighting cancer. Don’t mistake them for mushrooms and chocolate truffles. They are completely different. We can try many dishes with truffles to make our menu stand out among guests.
Q1. Why is truffle so expensive?
Truffles are very rare and they are very complex to cultivate. They can’t be harvested like mushrooms. Truffle hunting needs trained dogs.
Q2. What does truffle taste similar to?
Truffles have a strong umami flavor. Their earthy flavor is somewhat similar to the taste of mushrooms. Truffles taste like meat in some ways.
Q3. Why truffle is considered as a special food?
Truffles are very rare and expensive. Once harvested they will perish easily. Store truffles with great care. Truffles can make your dish stand out because of its aroma and flavor.
Q4. How much does one truffle cost?
Truffles are quite expensive, especially white truffles. An ounce of truffle can cost you $50 to $100.
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