Sunday, January 26, 2014

The Trouble With Truffles

Kim Defforge
by Kim Defforge

When I hear someone talking about truffles, it takes me a second or two to figure out which kind they are referring to: the confection or the fungus. This can cause trouble because, although the words are the same, their meanings are not at all interchangeable. The word truffle derives from the Latin word tuber, meaning swelling or lump, which later became tufer and eventually evolved to the current term in French, truffe.

The black truffle, referred to as l’or noir (black gold), are actually tuber melanosporum, a fungus that are harvested at the base of oak trees in winter and summer. Truffle production depends on just the right combination of soil pH, precipitation, and sunlight for a warm, dry environment and therefore, is rare. This makes them a highly prized and priced delicacy, commanding from $250 to $450 per pound.

Last summer I saw prices at 120 Euros for 100 grams. Summer harvested truffles are less flavorful, and therefore, are a little less expensive than in winter – Christmas demand can elevate the price from 500 to 1000 Euros per kilo (1 kil0 = 2.2 lbs.).

Truffles are hunted and harvested with pigs or trained dogs that able to detect the mature truffles strong odor from underneath the ground at the base of the oak trees. The odor is similar to a pig’s sexual pheromone, making their reaction a telltale sign - the trouble is trying to prevent the pig from eating the truffle...

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