Truffles, the King of all Fungi
Truffles - Highly Prized!
A Black Truffle
Have you ever eaten a meal that included truffle?
Truffles, and I don't mean chocolate
Truffles are an amazing delicacy that you will find being used in both Italian and French cuisine. More and more, we see them being incorporated around the globe, as these little nuggets worth their weight in gold (literally), are making the news. If you have never experienced a truffle of this type try to make it a point some time in your life to have a meal that incorporates even the littlest bit of them. Very fragrant, they are described as peppery, garlicky, honey like, but really hard to describe overall. There seems to be nothing else like them.
For instance, we were on a trip once, our family vacation, and we stopped for dinner at a nice restaurant in the Grand Canyon. It is called El Tovar, and is a wonderful lodge right there on the rim of the Grand Canyon. Anyway, this was a special night, a night we had reserved and it was time to "splurge". I had never had truffles, and I barely even did this night. I ordered an amazing steak, and it was all wonderful the sides, etc. What we didn't expect, was that the truffle "glaze" that it came with, would be so unbelievably delectable and amazing! There were the tiniest bits of these truffles included in this recipe for a glaze. My oldest son, tried it as did my husband and they both were very wowed! My son kept asking, "Mom, can I have some more of that good gravy?" To which I replied, don't call it that, this isn't your average biscuits and gravy! He continued on calling it gravy just to "get my goat" and we all had a good laugh. The point was, we never before or since had had the incredible taste of the truffles that made this dish top notch. You can just imagine then, how they taste in so many other dishes, where there is much more of the truffle included.
Truffles are actually a fungus, like mushrooms although they look nothing like them. They actually look a bit more like potatoes than anything else. It sounds kind of gross, that these incredible treats are fungus, found in the dirt, that pigs love to dig up and gobble down. I find the whole thing very interesting, and its incredible that in nature, we find another "gem" for our enjoyment in cooking.
Truffles grow deeper in the ground than mushrooms, and also have a symbiotic relationship to plants, so this gives us clues as to their whereabouts. It used to be that people just searched for them until they found them. Now there is a bit more science behind it all to help. In the fall, is when the season begins that people go about trying to find these very expensive fungi. They can get top dollar for them, so its very worthwhile to try to and harvest wherever they grow. Italy it turns out, is just one of those places that these truffles can be found. Lucky Italians!
In Italy, they tend to find more of the white truffles, which are often more expensive than the wonderful black truffles found in France. Both are incredibly delicious and demand top dollar. They are just so good, and bring so much flavor to foods, that you can see why they are included in some fancier Italian cuisines, as well as French, etc.
Another View of a Black Truffle
Hunting for truffles in Tuscany, &the dog is so obedient! Watch the peoples exclamations when they dig it up, mmm!
On the hunt for truffles
Truffle Poll #2
Have you ever seen a truffle?
More about truffles
Truffles grow deeper than a lot of fungi, and especially around the roots of truffle oak trees. They are down about 30 centimeters or so below the surface. Thus, hard to find if you don't know what clues to look for, or have special help from the animal kingdom. One of the very interesting things to note about truffles, is that no one, has been able to cultivate them no matter how hard they try. They only grow on their own in particular regions. For instance, you will find truffles growing 44 - 46 degrees north latitude (approximately). The closest thing to being able to cultivate them, is to plant truffle oaks, to increase one's chances.
I have seen a show on the television once, about specialty trained pigs (sows) and dogs that are used especially for hunting down truffles. In short, they take these animals, definitely leashed on a walk or a run sometimes, and the animal sniffs out the truffles. When these animals find them, they begin to dig feverishly, at which time the owners need to pull them back, lest they reach and gobble up these delectable fungi! What a risk, considering that if your dog or pig did get to it before you did, that you may lose out on a lot of money.
There are many stories, mysteries even surrounding unfortunate accidents or missing animals over these buried gems. People will fight for these things. Sows love to eat these tubers, and have a very keen sense of smell for them. They are not small animals, and it takes some strength to pull them off of a truffle once found. More and more dogs are being trained to help out with this worthy cause.
A $50,000 dollar truffle purchase!
Cost of truffles
The cost of truffles depends on which market you are buying them in, and their color. There are black, grey and white truffles, and all will fetch a "pretty penny". There are some in France, that were sold for about $750 dollars a kilo, but by the time these same truffles reached North America, prices went up to $1,250, to $1,500 a kilo. A lot depends on the store location, and how popular an establishment is, etc.
There have been some grey truffles found in America. Anyone want to go on a walk in the woods with a digging implement?
After tasting just a little bit of truffle in a glaze sauce, and after all I have learned, I begin to see the reasons why truffles are so popular. You can maybe begin to see why some unscrupulous types have been driven to gunfighting, theft, and why investigations are underway for missing trained dogs and pigs, etc! Some scientists have been called in to help investigators learn more to catch these culprits.
I would have to say, that just a tiny bit of truffle in a glaze sauce, with my meal, was the best thing I have ever eaten in my life. I can't really compare it to anything else either. There are other foods I love, that are maybe close, but not really any that were better.
© 2010 Paula