You might have heard of truffle—the pungent, hyper-expensive, umami-laden fungi that sell for thousands of dollars and can fetch a premium at fancy restaurants. They’re also the kind of thing people tend to think is unique and super-secret. But what exactly are they?
Truffles are mushrooms.
Truffles are fungi. They are not a type of mushroom or truffle.
Truffles are a specific kind of fungus—a member of the ascomycete family, meaning they have microscopic spores, and most species grow underground or inside trees (but not in dirt).
Some truffles smell like chocolate.
You may have heard that truffles smell like chocolate. That’s because they can have a very distinct, earthy aroma.
But unlike most foods that get their distinctive flavor from being cooked or processed in some way, truffles are an exception: they’re a fungus that grows underground on the roots of trees. You might even say they’re nature’s candy—not only do they taste great, but they also contain nutrients like B vitamins (good for energy) and potassium (helps control blood pressure). So if you want to add something sweet and healthy to your diet, why not give them a try?
They were costly.
You can probably guess from the name that truffles are expensive. They’re more costly than gold, caviar, foie gras, and truffles. The price of a single truffle can exceed $2000!
That means that if you want to eat them often (and who doesn’t?), you’ll need to be very careful about how many trips you take into the woods and hire a professional to find your precious fungi.
Many truffles are difficult to find.
Many truffles are difficult to find. This means they’re expensive, and it’s not uncommon for them to sell for thousands of dollars per pound. Some truffles are worth more than gold!
Truffles are found on the ground in France and other parts of Europe. They grow underground, so you may have never even seen one before!
Truffles have been reserved for special groups for thousands of years.
Truffles have been a food source for thousands of years, but they were reserved for special groups for most of that time.
The oldest known evidence of truffles being eaten shows that ancient Egyptians were using them as far back as the 6th century B.C., and they’re mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey (around 800 B.C.). The Roman Empire also enjoyed truffles and even exported them to Greece and North Africa during the first century A.D.
There’s a lot of mythology about how to find truffles.
Truffles are a fungus that lives underground. They look like mushrooms but don’t grow on the ground’s surface. Instead, they grow underneath the bark of trees and stay there for months or even years at a time. You can’t smell or dig them up with your hands—truffle hunters must use special tools and dogs to find them!
Truffles are expensive because they’re so hard to find—and even harder when you’re doing it by hand. The best way to spot truffles is by using trained dogs who know what they smell like, not metal detectors or pigs (we’ll discuss these methods later).
Whether you’re looking to get into truffle hunting or simply want to enjoy some truffle oil on your next pizza, you must know the facts—and remember them the next time you find yourself at a fancy restaurant. Call him out if your waiter says something outlandish about these fungi and wants to charge you extra for them! Truffles aren’t as rare or magical as some people like to think.