The truffle (tuber) The diamond in the sophisticated kitchen
The truffle (tuber)
The tuber is a mushroom that grows underground and is very popular among truffle connoisseurs. According to my research, the demand for edible truffles is a lot higher than the supply. There are several reasons for this; currently only about 10% of the desired truffles are harvested. In some regions of the world, truffle plantations report that they are harvesting fewer and fewer truffles every year due to climate change. On the other hand, it is believed that there are large amounts of wild truffles in the world's forests, but in some countries or regions truffle hunting is prohibited. And also there are apparently too few truffle hunters who could better cover the needs. Meanwhile, there are slowly more farmers from central or northern European countries who want to grow truffles.
The most favorable climate zones for growing truffles are slowly moving from the south up to the north due to climate change. Since the truffle harvests of the southern countries will probably dry up completely in a few years, it is high time to set up truffle plantations in Central and Northern Europe!
This is one of the reasons truffles are so expensive. If you look closely at the truffles you cannot imagine that they hide such extraordinary truffle aromas under the bumpy rind (outer skin = peridia) that will delight the finest palate.
A mushroom that ripens underground and is worth a lot. Some gourmet chefs or the rich are willing to pay 160,000 euros and more for a large noble tuber.
The truffle hunt
Did you also know that wild boars have a fine sense of smell and love truffles? These animals have known the delicious taste of truffles for thousands of years. Truffle pigs were therefore used to track down the precious tubers in the wild during the truffle season. Nowadays, the truffle pigs have been replaced by specially trained truffle dogs because dogs are easier to transport and more obedient. In addition, pigs destroy the sensitive truffle mycelium by rummaging, after which no more truffles will grow in that place in the next season. As a result, truffle hunting with pigs has been banned since the 1980s.
Types of truffles: France, Spain and Italy are the three largest and most famous truffle producers in the world. Depending on the type of truffle, the noble tubers are harvested from November to March or from May to September. A good quality tuber is round, large and has a stunning smell, with no ammonia knots (overripe to spoiled). The best known are the black Périgord truffle and the white Alba truffle.
The black truffle: Of the edible truffle species, five are mainly grown in France, and truffle products are manufactured and marketed.
Périgord truffle - Black truffle - Tuber melanosporum
This region is often associated with French cuisine for its good duck, foie gras and truffle dishes. But beware! If Périgord is now synonymous with black truffle, this region in southwest France was never the main producer. Nowadays, the black Périgord truffle is the most famous and expensive type of black truffle.
Winter truffle - Nutmeg truffle - Tuber brumale
The nutmeg truffle smells pleasant to the nose, mostly quite intense and aromatic with a nutty note. This type of truffle can be confused with the Périgord truffle due to its external appearance. However, the winter truffle develops a certain bitter taste in the mouth.
Burgundy Truffle - Autumn Truffle - Tuber uncinatum
The autumn truffle is the most widespread in Europe because it can enter into symbiosis with many different tree species. The burgundy truffle is robust, tolerates longer periods of frost and is not picky about its host trees. It is a popular type of truffle for plantation owners in central and northern regions, because it occurs wild even at altitudes up to 1000m, it tolerates the cooler climate of the north excellently.
Summer truffle - Scorzone - Tuber aestivum (Tuber blotii)
This variety is little appreciated in France and is therefore rarely eaten. It is only used for truffle dog training! The summer truffle is genetically the same type of truffle as the Burgundy truffle. The only difference between the two is the level of maturity. Therefore, the scor zone tastes much milder and the pulp is light to cream-colored. From the outside, the noble bulbs cannot be distinguished visually. The smell reveals more, because the tuber aestivum naturally smells much milder than the tuber uncinatum.
Alba Truffle - Real White Truffle - Tuber magnatum
The Alba truffle is the white diamond of gourmet cuisine and the world's most expensive truffle with prices up to € 9,000 per kilo. The queen of truffles has a slightly garlic-like taste and a camembert-like aroma, which is unique among the edible truffle species. It is also the rarest truffle on the market because the real white truffle has not yet been cultivated on plantations. Therefore, the Tuber magnatum pico is only found in forests and has to be collected by hand by truffle hunters with the help of trained truffle dogs. The decline in the harvest in recent years has also led to a dramatic increase in prices.
The history of the truffle
Truffle writings and paintings have existed since ancient times. The ancient Romans even gave the precious tubers therapeutic and aphrodisiac properties. For example, the ancient Egyptians coated the truffles with goose fat and so on.
Then in the Middle Ages the tuber was demonized and banned by the Catholic Church, so it fell into oblivion over the centuries until the French restaurateur Brillat Savarin delighted the nobility with truffle delicacies with his cooking skills. This brought the rough diamond back to its true value in the kitchen.
The truffle cultivation
The truffle bulbs grow hypogean (underground) about 5 - 30cm below the ground. Fungi live in symbiosis with certain host plants such as oaks, beeches, chestnuts and hazel bushes. Coexistence with a host is essential because both species (fungus and host) benefit from each other. So it's a win-win situation. Thanks to its extremely thin fine roots, the fungus can absorb micronutrients, which it shares with its host. On the other hand, the tree produces carbohydrates thanks to its leaves, which it shares with its fungus.
And because the tubers of the truffles ripen underground, dogs are needed to track down the delicacy. With the exception of the Alba truffle, all other edible truffle species are already successfully cultivated and marketed on plantations.
The truffle kitchen
The truffle can shine in various dishes. The noble ingredient can be served with pasta, risotto, eggs, foie gras, foie gras, in combination with other mushrooms and lobster. The edible truffle is often processed into truffle oil, truffle butter or truffle salt in order to preserve the taste of the truffle.
The truffle aroma is quite pronounced in most types of truffle and should therefore not be drowned out by adding intense spices. The white truffle, for example, should not be cooked as it loses its aroma when heated. It is best to rub the noble bulb raw over the food. The black truffle types, on the other hand, develop their taste at a maximum of 50 ° C, for example in sauces. The truffle season is only short, which is why it is worth trying a fresh truffle during this time.
The truffle is the Mozart of the kitchen. They have become indispensable as an aromatic instrument in haute cuisine.