This month we've been wondering around the beautiful countryside in search of that rare and mysterious mushroom; the truffle. Such a powerful ingredient, people are sometimes too scared to use it because of it's status. Let's get the facts out in the open, and start using this delicious ingredient more often.
The origins of truffles were unknown for a long period of time, but thanks to science, the mystery has been unveiled. It’s actually a mushroom, a subterranean cousin of the morel, and has been consumed across the world since antiquity.
How do truffles grow?
They grow underground to a depth that varies between 1-20 cms, with no roots of any kind. They’re generally found under trees, and particularly oak, hazel, linden and willow trees, where they form a sort of partnership of natural resources known as ‘symbiosis’.
How are truffles found?
Truffles can be farmed to a certain extent, but for the very best you have to go into the wild! However, truffle-hunters don’t do this without their trusted ally; a truffle dog! These dogs have been trained since they were young to sniff out truffles and to show their master where to dig. Pigs were used in times past, but they have a tendency to dig up the truffles for themselves and eat them!
There’s also a particular type of fly that lays its eggs above the ground where truffles are planted. Some truffle-hunters walk the ground, poking with a stick to disturb these flies and then search the area from where it flies away.
Why are truffles so rare?
The rarity of truffles is linked to the diverse requirements needed for its development, including but not limited to: the quality of the soil, the other plant species present, the climate, the exposure to sunshine… not entirely unlike top quality vines!
What are the different kinds of truffles?
There are nearly a hundred of them! But the gastronomes only recognize a few as being seriously worthy of the effort required to hunt them down:
The black truffle of Périgord, also called Tuber Melanosporum, is the queen of truffles!
The white truffle of Italy, also called the white gold of Piedmont.
The white truffle of summer which is harvested from the month of May until the end of summer. It has a slightly buttered fragrance.
The truffle of Burgundy has a particularly interesting hazelnut character!
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