Why are Truffles so expensive?
The truffle owes its high price to its rarity. Truffles are not grown like mushrooms. Most cultivation attempts have failed miserably so far. It is now possible to grow black truffles, but the result has not yet had any good taste.
Most and the best grow in only limited regions. A general distinction is made between white and black truffles. The white ones – Tuber magnatum – grow mainly in the north of Italy in Piedmont and the Apennines north of Bologna.
Black truffles – Tuber melanosporum – grow in France in the Périgord, in Northern province and the Australian Manjimup. There are also summer truffles, but both are less tasty and cheaper.
True truffle lovers only look for Black Winter Truffles and White Truffles.
Apart from the very restricted areas, truffles can only be found under deciduous trees. They grow underground in the root system of these trees and form a symbiosis with them, a community from which both parties benefit.
The truffle supplies the tree with valuable minerals and salts; in return, the fungus receives photosynthesis products from the tree. Besides, there are factors such as heat, water supply, sunshine and much more that determine whether a truffle can grow under a tree or not.
They are light golden brown on the outside, depending on how much soil is left on them, and inside they have a delicate beige, almost white color with a visible structure. Since they only grow in one region, their season is unfortunately very limited.Fresh white truffles, called tartufi Bianchi in Italian, are only available from September to the end of December.
Short six weeks during which one should not hesitate for long. This is not the only reason why they are called the diamonds of Alba. Because their taste is sensitive to heat and not as intense as that of black truffles, white truffles are more suitable for combining with light ingredients such as vegetables, rice or pasta.
The Black Winter Truffles, also called Périgord truffles, are the most expensive. They come from Périgord and northern Provence in France and Manjimup in Australia. In France, the season runs from early December to mid-March and in Australia from July to September.
They don’t have a strong aroma like the white truffle, but their taste is very intense. For this reason, black truffles can be either added onto a prepared meal after cooking or cooked. Due to their intense taste, they can be combined well with meat dishes, such as poultry with truffle slices, soups, meat with truffle sauce and much more.
As a rule of thumb, black Winter truffles are best served with red wine and white truffles with white wine.
The history of the truffle
The history of truffles goes back to ancient Egypt. There, the popularity of the truffle has its origin in the fact that people believed that the truffle sprouted from the ground when lightning struck the earth.
According to legend, a farmer saw one of his pigs digging at the root of a tree and eating the mushrooms it found. When the farmer saw that the pig was healthy, he tried the mushrooms himself.
Although unable to conceive a child for many years, the farmer had about 13 children after eating truffles. Word spread and many longed for similar happiness.
The truffle was considered to have a supernatural quality and people saw the tuber as a gift from God.
In contrast to the Egyptians, the Greeks and Romans used the truffle for therapeutic purposes and felt that they gave eternal health to body and soul. In their opinion, this was confirmed by exotic qualities in aroma and taste.
It did not take long for the truffle to meet with the interest of the nobility.
During the dark ages of the Middle Ages truffles practically disappeared from human eyes. Although the tuber had a good reputation in the past and was popular with the appropriate circles, the Church felt that truffles were the creation of the devil because of their exotic aroma – a whole new meaning.
They became known as “witchcraft,” and as a result, people renounced truffles for centuries.
In the Renaissance, truffles made a comeback under Louis XIV, who not only revived them before the darkness of the Middle Ages but also brought them to the forefront of one of Europe’s most prestigious dishes.
The king was fascinated by the nature of truffles and began to cultivate them. However, the cultivation of the tuber was not very successful.
In the middle of the 19th century, the truffle experienced its first great popularity. Today it is assumed that more than 2,000 tons of truffles will appear on the market in the coming decades.
With the appearance of the First World War, this came to an end. During the war itself, there were other worries. And during the battles in Europe, many of the rural areas were destroyed and the soil was rendered useless for truffles.
The distribution of truffles thus declined dramatically. It reached its lowest point in the 1960s when less than 400 tonnes appeared on the market. Even today, truffles are a rare delicacy reserved for special occasions.
If you are one of the good chefs who can prepare truffles yourself, then you should ensure you get the best truffles in the market.
Trust plays a big role here and can be a big hurdle at the beginning. Listen around and pay attention to who other people trust. You can buy them on the Internet, but you never know exactly what you’ll get and what quality you’ll get.
Truffles should spend less than three days between harvesting and preparation, after which they lose their taste with each passing day. After 2 weeks they are completely tasteless.
Of course, you can also preserve truffles, the best methods are either freezing or oiling, but nothing resembles the quality of a fresh mushroom.
Other than exterior color, how exactly do white and black truffles differ? One thing can be said right away: the question of which truffle variety is better has been discussed for generations and will not be answered for many years to come. It is simply a matter of taste.