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What the Heck Is A Mushroom Truffle?

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what-the-heck-is-a-truffle-anyway-and-why-are-they-so-darn-expensive

Random Ramblings From Idlewild

Jacques Gerard stealthily moves through the Provence forest as his leashed animal pulls him forward eagerly. Anticipating, Salivating.There is quick and furtive activity. Jacques springs to action and with his walking staff blocks the animal from devouring his prey.

What is is happening here? A diabolical criminal on the run through the forests of France? A wild boar perhaps, destined for the family dinner table? Non. Jacques is hunting the elusive black truffle - revered by gourmets the world over - and his assistant is his trained pig.So much trouble for what is essentially a mushroom covered with dirt.

what-the-heck-is-a-truffle-anyway-and-why-are-they-so-darn-expensive

Animal Farm

Truffles produce a "male pig hormone" scent, so historically, female pigs were trained in the art of truffle tracking. Sort of like hiding Brad Pit in the woods and letting loose a pack of wild females. Pigs - being pigs - tend to pounce on the nugget and devour it with a satisfied snort. These days, dogs are preferred, since they can be trained to hunt truffles and not regard them as fast food. In fact, dogs are not particularly fond of the taste (of truffles, but Brad Pitt is OK), or so we think since no dog has gone on the record to state why they don't like them, preferring instead the lowly dog biscuits given to them as a reward. I mean, if a dog won't eat it?

Rossini the Crybaby

Rossini the Crybaby

Pass the Truffled Turkey, Please.

The fanatical devotion to truffles dates back centuries. Theophrastus mentions them in his writings as early as the 4th century B.C. Not to be outdone, Plutarch, Juvenal, Cicero and Dioscorides all waxed philosophic on the mysterious truffle. During the Renaissance, truffled turkey was considered the finest gustatory delicacy. "I have wept three times in my life." Rossini confessed, who was apparently a crybaby, "Once when my first opera failed. Once again the first time I heard Paganini play the violin. And once when a truffled turkey fell overboard at a boating picnic." I'm surprised he didn't jump in after it.

what-the-heck-is-a-truffle-anyway-and-why-are-they-so-darn-expensive

There's a Place in France...

Ranging in size from gumball to misshapen potato, truffles are found under beech, oak, birch, hazelnut, hickories, Douglas fir and pine trees. Once, they were primarily the exclusive domain of Italy, France, and just a few other isolated areas, but now, thanks to cultivation of the spore, they are grown in Spain, Sweden, New Zealand, Australia and the U.K. In 1992, American Frank Garland became the first person to successfully cultivate the black Perigord truffle though many had tried for 100 years (Sorry Italy and France. I guess we win...AGAIN). His truffle nursery has now shipped over 300,000 trees with the truffle spores already attached to the roots. There are now successful farms in N.C., Virginia, Tennessee and Kentucky. Furthermore, Oregon black and white truffles are indigenous to the Pacific Northwest and grow abundantly in the forests of Oregon and Washington, good news for foodies. While European truffles can sell for $300 to $2000 per pound, equally good American truffles sell for a fraction of the cost, about $100 to $200 per pound. Still expensive, yes, but worth it if you're a "truffle head.".

what-the-heck-is-a-truffle-anyway-and-why-are-they-so-darn-expensive

I Think I'll Take the Dog For a Walk.

In December 2007, the highest price paid for a single specimen was set by a Macau businessman. Weighing a whopping 3.3 pounds, the truffle was sniffed out near Pisa by Luciano Savini and his dog Rocco, man's best friend if ever there was one. The freakish fungi was auctioned simultaneously in Macao, Hong Kong and Florence and fetched a king's ransom of $333.000. As in 'Uncle Sam Apple Pie' dollars. Now that's some Pisa dough. Too bad Mr. Savini wasn't using a female pig. She might have eaten it, and that would have been hilarious.

what-the-heck-is-a-truffle-anyway-and-why-are-they-so-darn-expensive

What's That Smell?

Many mail-order companies sell both European and American truffles; fresh, frozen, freeze-dried, in a jar and a plethora of truffle products guaranteed to thrill the secret chef in all of us while simultaniously picking your pocket. Black truffles have a strong, earthy, mushroom taste with wood undertones, while white truffles are more subtle, slightly creamy and floral. Smell is a different matter. The aroma has been generously described as resembling deep-fried walnuts, but most describe them as "foul smelling," "like goat urine," and my favorite, "dead mouse trapped behind a wall." The dining elite pay no attention to such criticism, regarding these nescient philistines - these commoners - as spoilspores.

what-the-heck-is-a-truffle-anyway-and-why-are-they-so-darn-expensive

One Chewed Over The Cukoo's Nest

When some poor soul finally succumbs to the mystery and decadent enticement of the almighty truffle, the truffle is shaved raw over steaming buttered pasta, inserted into savory meats or placed under the skins of succulent, roasted fowl. They are orgasmically infused into foie gras, pate' and herb stuffings. Brillat-Savarine - the famous epicure and gastronome, called them the "diamond of the kitchen," and famously said, "Tell me what you eat and I will tell you what you are." Well, friends, with a truffle in your hand and a gleam in your eye, you are a gourmet. Or maybe - just maybe - you're a little goofy in the head, and dogs, the noblest of beasts, know something you don't.

Photo/Illustration Credits

Pigs by demondimum/morguefile; Bulldog by taliesin/morguefile; Rossini by Google; Eiffel Tower by Elpedro/stockxchge; Leaning Tower of Piza by Danielito/morguefile; French Restaurant by melga/stockxchg; Chef by clarita/morguefile.

Truffle Hunting in Tuscany

Comments

Madeline on July 19, 2011:

I was just looking up what the heck are truffles besides the sweet chocolate desserts and it's a mushroom. Great article! Never had a mushroom truffle but chefs have orgasms over this stuff. It must have a unique taste and if it's anywhere as powerful as the mighty chocolate I'd probably go nuts over it too.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on February 04, 2011:

Thanks Misty. Glad you got a chance to read it!

Cindy Lawson from Guernsey (Channel Islands) on February 03, 2011:

I really don't know how I ever missed this fabulously funny hub Christoph, it is brilliant. "dead mouse behind a wall" and "This is sort of like hiding Brad Pit in the woods and letting loose a pack of wild females." both statements cracked me up laughing. Excellent stuff :D

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on February 03, 2011:

Hi Mysterylady. People can be downright fanatical about truffles. I don't know. That's a lot of money to eat. Thanks for the comment (your fan mail cracked me up..."etc. etc." Ha!)

mysterylady 89 from Florida on February 03, 2011:

This was written with style and grace and your usual humor. I have watched the Barefoot Contessa cook with truffle butter, but I've never had the chance to taste one. Sniff, sniff!

jack mehoff on December 17, 2010:

we are going on a truffle hunt tomorrow in oregon...ill let yall know how we did soon!!! check out updates at ediblemushrooms.org

d

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on September 24, 2010:

Stevan: I found your site most interesting. Perhaps I'll be in touch as I may want to write about starting a truffle farm. Sort of a promotional thing, on spec. Thanks for the comment.

stevan the black truffle farmer on September 24, 2010:

A black truffle farm is a great way to make a living. Farming the black truffle was considered snake oil just a few short years ago but it is no longer so.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on October 22, 2009:

Thank you, dianacharles. How nice to see you! I hope all is well. Thanks for the comment!

dianacharles from India on October 22, 2009:

'This is sort of like hiding Brad Pit in the woods and letting loose a pack of wild females.'

You do have a way with words and analogies...he he

Another great hub from you Christoph. :0

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on June 29, 2009:

pvrust: Thanks for dropping by and your kind words. Your comment is appreciated!

pvrust from Carlsbad, Ca on June 29, 2009:

Christorher, fantastic and sexy way of talking about truffels. I was a chef in San Francisco and worked with a many Truffel loving French Chef's. You are so delicate with your words! Thanks for letting the world know about one of the worlds magnificant treasures.

Thanks again,

Gary Rust - Pura Vida!

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on June 18, 2009:

MMmmmmm..grapefruit!! *big smile!*

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on June 18, 2009:

MMmmmmmm...lima beans. Ha,ha!

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on June 18, 2009:

Then I shall eat your grapefruit and you can eat my Lima Beans and we'll work on the rest! LOL!!!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on June 18, 2009:

"Everything in moderation" seems to be an OK way to go, and to a degree, even healthful. I like lima beans, but grapefruit makes me gag. Ditto on the sex (not gag - though it can if you're doing it right - but meaning that I agree and identify with your comment.)

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on June 18, 2009:

I like a little bit of everything every so often.. except lima beans - never and should sex ever reenter my life (I'm too choosey) - lots and always!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on June 16, 2009:

"Too much of a good thing?" There is, I'm sure, a great deal of truth in what you say. Consider the lobster. There was a time when it was so common, that household staff of the wealthy families had it in their contracts that they could not be fed lobster more than twice a week. Or is it more like diamonds? Not rare at all, but because DeBeers has pretty much cornered the market and they decide what gets sold and what doesn't, they set the price. It is an illusion of rarity. Hmmmm. More to ponder.

Jewels from Australia on June 16, 2009:

Ten months now since recalling the truffle aroma. Had to revisit, though I'd forgotten I'd visited in the first place. Is it that the best things in life a rare, otherwise we'd get complacent and they'd not be the best things anymore? Hmmmm, one to ponder.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on June 16, 2009:

Candie: Yeah, one of my first ones. Wine sounds good! Thanks for your culinary interest! Hugs.

Candie V from Whereever there's wolves!! And Bikers!! Cummon Flash, We need an adventure! on June 16, 2009:

Oh, I just found this one.. must've been before we were fans.. You get the truffles, I'll bring the wine! Who needs Brad Pitt? He's overrated, truffles are not. Many hugs!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on April 16, 2009:

IslandVoice: When am I invited over for truffle pizza? I'll do the dishes and bring the wine. Thanks for the comment!

Sylvia Van Velzer from Hawaii on April 16, 2009:

What a delightful hub! My husband and i love truffles on pizza.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on April 03, 2009:

It was in the first three, so somewhere in there.  I have never had a truffle, so it's good you can't tell.  I think the cost is silly though.  Thanks, Randy!

Randy Behavior from Near the Ocean on April 03, 2009:

Was this your first hub? I can't tell. Do you like or dislike truffles?

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on September 21, 2008:

O2SmithA: Thanks for the comment. That's why I wrote it. I looked it up for my own benefit. Thanks!

02SmithA from Ohio on September 21, 2008:

Nice hub on a topic I knew very little about!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on September 04, 2008:

Thank you Sally. You're no shlub in the writing department either. And thanks for that answering comments with wit and style. I try. Um...let's see...I can't take the pressure! Seriously, though, I am charmed!

Sherri from Southeastern Pennsylvania on September 04, 2008:

I read this Hub a few days ago, but got distracted from leaving a comment.  So I read it again today.  It was even better (earthier) on the second reading.

Now, I am among those readers of yours who are well-schooled in truffle procurement and cuisine through what I have read and heard, but have never actually eaten a shaving of one, nor seen one in real life.  Not to mention that my French stinks, after having studied it for one year in college and never used it again since.

So, thumb is up on a most informative and entertaining Hub.  And kudos to you for commenting to your readers with wit and style.

Your fan, Sally

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on September 02, 2008:

Brainstormer: Cut & paste, my friend, cut & paste. You have long been an inspiration...non....a hero to us here in Hubpages rookie land. Thanks for the comments.

Lifebydesign: Thanks for dropping in a sitting a spell. I appreciate your comments. Thanks!

Lifebydesign from Australia on September 02, 2008:

Oh what a fun read all the way down! Oh yeh, the hub was tres tres bien too!

Brainstormer from Australia on September 02, 2008:

..."water wings" and "spoilspores"?. The king is dead long live Christoph Reilly.

Your profile is silky smooth, your culinary understanding magnificent, your knowledge of fine wines superb, your rapport with women inspiring. My own words are those of a boorish brute in comparison.

This Hub? Yeah it was OK too.

Great read.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 29, 2008:

Why, Robie2, you flatter me. Keep it up! Merci a vous, madmoiselle!

Roberta Kyle from Central New Jersey on August 29, 2008:

This was delightful and you, Christoph, are a breath of fresh air--Merci!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 29, 2008:

Thanks Veronica! Glad I could bring a smile to your face.

Veronica Bright from Nebraska on August 29, 2008:

You learn something every day! Personally, I am not a big fan of mushrooms, but great hub anyway! Love your humor

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 28, 2008:

Thanks, Jim10. I'm going to have to get some of that truffle oil. It would be very handy and an economical way to enjoy the flavor and mystique of truffles. No pigs need apply.

jim10 from ma on August 27, 2008:

Great info on truffles. I have used truffle oil in some cooking like over pasta and it is great on popcorn. I have never tried grated truffles on anything. But it sounds great.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 27, 2008:

What have we here? Sixtyorso & Jewels...Truffle heads? I love people who enjoy the finer things in life. Thanks and thanks to Cailin as well. I'd like to thank my mother and father, and special thanks...oh, wait, that's for something else.

Cailin Gallagher from New England on August 27, 2008:

Excellent hub!

Jewels from Australia on August 27, 2008:

I loved my truffle experiences, in Umbria - how lovely. Yumm, I can still smell them. Thanks for bringing back the flavor.

Clive Fagan from South Africa on August 27, 2008:

Great Hub. Most of my truffle experience consists of meals with a smidgeon of shaved truffle. This mysterous addition to the food enhances the flavour immeasureably. In a way much like saffron enhances any seafood casserole dish or soup.

Le secret ingredient.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 27, 2008:

Coming from you, Mr. Shadesbreath, that is a high complement indeed. I humbly accept your comment. I enjoy your work as well. Thanks for the note.

Shadesbreath from California on August 26, 2008:

Hah, dude, I clicked on this hub expecting some lame ... well, I don't know, something lame about mushrooms, but this was a downright great read, man. Super well done, seriously.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 26, 2008:

Thanks, J D. I appreciate the comment and love the pun!

J D Murrah from Refugee from Shoreacres, Texas on August 26, 2008:

Christoph,

I enjoyed your hub. It had a human touch without being personal. It is very down to earth and refreshing to read.

Well Done.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 23, 2008:

Hot, thanks for the kind words my friend.

hot dorkage from Oregon, USA on August 23, 2008:

wowsa! You can write my friend! What a quirky topic. I think the psilocybin jobbies are easier to find, at least you don't have to dig the dirt off 'em.

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 23, 2008:

Thanks Veronica and Rochelle. Don't know why my humor would seem familiar. Maybe you were hunting truffles and got one of those psilocybin jobbies. Thanks for the comments!

Rochelle Frank from California Gold Country on August 23, 2008:

Enlightening and entertaining!

Veronica Bright from Nebraska on August 23, 2008:

Loved it! Your humor seems oddly familiar!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 22, 2008:

Thanks, Denise! Right back at ya'.

DeniseClarke from Florida on August 22, 2008:

YIKES! Truffles are an amazing fungi, indeed! I think I would prefer to hunt them with my dog vs. a large female pig ... LOL!

Great blog!

Denise

http://WineFoodPairing.blogspot.com

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 22, 2008:

Exellente. Attendez-moi à 2, mon peu crepe!

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on August 22, 2008:

mmm... now we are talking... exceptional choice of Champagne its cinnamon notes would be perfect for my omelette.

What time? apres midi s'il vous plait :)

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 22, 2008:

That sounds delicioso, Princessa. When should I be there? I'll bring the proscuitto & melon and a bottle of champagne - Taittinger Prélude Grands Crus is a joyous blend of finesse and complexity, striking a perfect balance between freshness and aromatic expression. It should match up well with your truffles & omelette. What time should I be there again?

Wendy Iturrizaga from France on August 22, 2008:

I loved this hub, it just put me in the mood for some truffles grated over an omelette... yummy!

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 21, 2008:

Thanks, glassvisage.

glassvisage from Northern California on August 21, 2008:

Truffle dogs and pigs! What an outrageous Hub. The title is great! Makes me want some chocolate...

Christoph Reilly (author) from St. Louis on August 21, 2008:

Thanks, Isabella. I'll always remember you as my first. xxoo.

Isabella Snow on August 20, 2008:

Very good hub!

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