If you’re hunting truffles, the nose knows. And you need to get a good one on your side. It used to be pigs that did most of the truffle hunting but they tended to want to eat them. So, man’s best friend, as it turns out, could be trained to sniff-out those ripe underground fungi. And dogs do it for the thrill of the hunt (and maybe a few treats). But they won’t eat the profits! Awesome!! :-)))) So, you see, it only looks like poop. To truffle hunters those balls are 24 carat gold.
What in the world could cost fifteen hundred dollars a pound? For those of you who are gourmet cooks, you’ve probably already guessed it. I was listening to the radio this week and heard a report that it’s “truffle season” in Europe, and prices for the rarest white truffles are over $1,500 per pound. As a curious sort, I had to learn more about this – and as a foodie, I was intrigued. I’ll admit I’ve not eaten real truffles before and now my interest is peaked (but my commonsense wallet is not). Special thanks to Wikipedia. If the weather cooperates this weekend plan to head out to the beautiful parks with Jackie for a little hiking – never know when I may stumble upon some rare white “ohio” beauties. Now, in full disclosure I really wouldn’t know what to look for!
- A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean ascomycete fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber. In addition to Tuber, many other genera of fungi are classified as truffles including Geopora, Peziza, Choiromyces, Leucangium, and over a hundred others. These genera belong to the class Pezizomycetes and the Pezizales order. (yep, I paid attention in science class)
- Some of the truffle species are highly prized as food. French gastronome Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles “the diamond of the kitchen”. Edible truffles are used in French and numerous national haute cuisines.
- Phylogenetic evidence suggests that the majority of subterranean fruiting bodies evolved from above-ground mushrooms. Over time mushroom stipes and caps were reduced, and caps began to enclose reproductive tissue. The dispersal of sexual spores then shifted from wind and rain to utilizing animals.
- The first mention of truffles appears in the inscriptions of the neo-Sumerians regarding their Amorite enemy’s eating habits (Third Dynasty of Ur, 20th century BC) and later in writings of Theophrastus in the 4th century BC. .
- A truffle’s substance is pale, tinged with rose. Unlike truffles, terfez (known as the desert truffle) have little inherent flavor. The Romans used the terfez as a carrier of flavor, because the terfez tend to absorb surrounding flavors. Because Ancient Roman cuisine used many spices and flavorings, the terfez may have been appropriate in that context.
- Truffles were rarely used during the Middle Ages. Truffle hunting is mentioned by Bartolomeo Platina, the papal historian, in 1481, when he recorded that the sows of Notza were without equal in hunting truffles, but they should be muzzled to prevent them from eating the prize.
- During the Renaissance, truffles regained popularity in Europe and were honored at the court of King Francis I of France. They were popular in Parisian markets in the 1780s, imported seasonally from truffle grounds, where peasants had long enjoyed them. Brillat-Savarin (1825) noted that they were so expensive, they appeared only at the dinner tables of great nobles and kept women.
- For discovering how to cultivate truffles, some sources now give priority to Pierre II Mauléon (1744–1831) of Loudun (in western France), who began to cultivate truffles around 1790. Mauléon saw an “obvious symbiosis” between the oak tree, the rocky soil, and the truffle, and attempted to reproduce such an environment by taking acorns from trees known to have produced truffles, and sowing them in chalky soil. His experiment was successful, with truffles being found in the soil around the newly grown oak trees years later.
- These successful attempts were met with enthusiasm in southern France, which possessed the sweet limestone soils and dry, hot weather that truffles need to grow. In the late 19th century, an epidemic of phylloxera destroyed many of the vineyards in southern France and an epidemic killed most of the silkworms there, too, making the fields of mulberry trees useless.
- Thus, large tracts of land were set free for the cultivation of truffles. Thousands of truffle-producing trees were planted, and production reached peaks of hundreds of tons at the end of the 19th century. In 1890, 75,000 hectares (190,000 acres) of truffle-producing trees had been planted.
- In the 20th century, with the growing industrialization of France and the subsequent rural exodus, many of these truffle fields (champs truffiers or truffières) returned to wilderness. The First World War also dealt a serious blow to the French countryside, killing 20% or more of the male working force. As a consequence, newly acquired techniques of trufficulture were lost.
- Between the two great world wars, the truffle groves planted in the 19th century stopped being productive. (The average lifecycle of a truffle-producing tree is 30 years.) Consequently, after 1945, the production of truffles plummeted, and the prices have risen dramatically. Today, they are a rare delicacy reserved for the rich, or used on very special occasions.
- In the 1970s, new attempts for mass production of truffles were started to make up for the decline in wild truffles. About 80% of the truffles now produced in France come from specially planted truffle groves.
- In 1999, the first Australian truffles were harvested in Tasmania, the result of eight years of work. Trees were inoculated with the truffle fungus in the hope of creating a local truffle industry. Their success and the value of the resulting truffles has encouraged a small industry to develop.
- In June 2014, A grower harvested Australia’s largest truffle from their property at Robertson in South Wales. It was a French black perigord fungus weighing in at 1.1172 kg (2 lb 7+7⁄16 oz) and was valued at over $2,000 per kilogram.
- Tom Michaels, owner of Tennessee Truffle, began producing Périgord truffles commercially in 2007. At its peak in the 2008–2009 season, his farm produced about 200 pounds of truffles, but Eastern filbert blight almost entirely wiped out his hazel trees by 2013 and production dropped, essentially driving him out of business.
- The black truffle or black Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum), the second-most commercially valuable species, is named after the Périgord region in France. Black truffles associate with oaks, hazelnut, cherry, and other deciduous trees and are harvested in late autumn and winter.
- Tuber magnatum, the high-value white truffle or trifola d’Alba Madonna (“Truffle of the Madonna from Alba” in Italian) is found mainly in the Langhe and Montferrat areas of the Piedmont region in northern Italy, and most famously, in the countryside around the cities of Alba and Asti. A large percentage of Italy’s white truffles also come from Molise.
- In Spain, per government regulation, white summer truffles can be harvested only in May through July.
- In the U.S. Pacific Northwest, several species of truffle are harvested both recreationally and commercially, most notably, the Leucangium carthusianum, Oregon black truffle; Tuber gibbosum, Oregon spring white truffle; and Tuber oregonense, the Oregon winter white truffle. Kalapuya brunnea, the Oregon brown truffle, has also been commercially harvested and is of culinary note.
- The pecan truffle (Tuber lyonii) syn. Texense is found in the Southern United States, usually associated with pecantrees. Chefs who have experimented with them agree “they are very good and have potential as a food commodity”. Although pecan farmers used to find them along with pecans and discard them, considering them a nuisance, they sell for about $160 a pound and have been used in some gourmet restaurants.
- Because truffles are subterranean, they are often located with the help of an animal possessing a refined sense of smell. Traditionally, pigs have been used for the extraction of truffles. Both the female pig’s natural truffle-seeking, and her usual intent to eat the truffle, were thought to be due to a compound within the truffle similar to androstenol, the sex pheromone of boar saliva, to which the sow is keenly attracted. Studies in 1990 demonstrated that the compound actively recognized by both truffle pigs and dogs is dimethyl sulfide.
- I am simply letting everyone know, I will not be walking a female pig through the forest looking for truffles anytime soon. I would much rather be walking down a beautiful golf course looking for my ball!
- If you are so inclined, here’s a recipe.
DO YOU LIKE CONTESTS?
As you may know the Kowalski Heat Treating logo finds its way
into the visuals of my Friday posts.
I. Love. My. Logo.
One week there could be three logos.
The next week there could be 15 logos.
And sometimes the logo is very small or just a partial logo showing.
But there are always logos in some of the pictures.
So, I challenge you, my beloved readers, to count them and send me a
quick email with the total number of logos in the Friday post.
On the following Tuesday I’ll pick a winner from the correct answers
and send that lucky person some great KHT swag.
So, start counting and good luck!
Oh, and the logos at the very top header don’t count.
Got it? Good. :-))))