What are Truffles?
Truffles are the fruits of a particular species of mushroom that grow under the ground. A truffle is a type of fungi that lives in the roots of its plant host to be able to live and thrive in its environment. There are hundreds known truffle species but the highest quality and the most expensive kind comes from the genus Tuber.
Why is this lowly fungus that grows underground among the roots of trees so expensive and fit to be eaten by kings and princes? The reason is that this tiny mushroom fruit has a unique and overpowering smell that appeals to the discriminating taste of gourmets and foodies worldwide.
Truffles are of different types depending on the region and climate where it is grown. The most sought-after varieties are the white truffle, black truffle and the summer or burgundy truffle. White truffles, the most expensive among the three varieties, are grown predominantly in the northern part of Italy but they can also be found in the southern region of Tuscany.
The highest price paid so far for a single purchase of white truffle was sold at an auction for a whopping $330,000. The fungal delicacy was found near Pisa in Italy. It thrives in areas where oak, hazel, beech and poplar trees abound and bears fruits in the fall.
The best way to serve white truffles is by sprinkling it raw over your favorite salad or pasta. But gourmets say that the best way to serve white truffles is by spreading it over fried eggs.
Black truffles can be found in abundance in the French region of Perigord where it got its other name, black Perigord truffle. It grows among hazelnuts and oaks and bears fruits in late fall until the winter season. The unique taste and potent smell is a mixture of various factors such as the kind of host, bacteria, fungi and yeast present, and the fauna in the area.
Summer or burgundy truffle can be found all across the European continent. The summer truffle variety which has a lighter color and lighter smell is harvested in the summer, and the burgundy truffle which has a darker color and an overpowering smell which is available in the fall until around the end of the year.
Truffles possess organoleptic properties, or characteristics that appeal to the senses especially to the sense of taste and smell. It is the smell of these tiny substances that make it so intriguing that you keep coming back for more. Some say that the scarcity of this tiny fungal delicacy is what makes it so appealing and mysterious.