This piece originally appeared on Needsupply.com.
Truffles, the ‘diamonds of the kitchen’, are the most highly revered fungus and have a magic ability to make absolutely anything taste freakishly delicious. We’re not sure how something found under some dirt could be full of so many super powers, but we’re here to dig up the details. Here’s a look at our little fungus friends, the superb, incredible, amazing truffle.
Edible truffles are held in high esteem in the cuisine of so many different cultures, and sometimes reserved as a delicacy. They are the fruiting body of a type of subterranean fungus, and while some species are highly prized, not all truffles are edible.
Our favorite fungi is usually found around the roots of different types of trees, like beech, poplar, oak, birch, hornbeam, hazel, and pine. Truffles’ spores are dispersed with the help of animals that eat fungi, called fungivores. There are tons of different types of animals and organisms that are classified as fungivores, and even more that are actually omnivores but also consume fungi.
Truffles are located and extracted in the wild with the help of domestic pigs called truffle hogs, or sometimes dogs. These pigs have a sense of smell so great that they can sniff out the prized fungi from as deep as three feet underground. Unfortunately, they also have a tendency to eat the truffles once found.
Truffles can be cultivated, though their domestication proved quite difficult:
“The most learned men have sought to ascertain the secret, and fancied they discovered the seed. Their promises, however, were vain, and no planting was ever followed by a harvest. This perhaps is all right, for as one of the great values of truffles is their dearness, perhaps they would be less highly esteemed if they were cheaper.” – Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin (1825)
But, just like everything else, someone eventually figured it out, using acorns found at the foot of oak trees known to host truffles in their root system. Truffles are now regularly cultivated and on their way to mass production.
There are a few different types of edible truffles: White truffles, black truffles, summer or burgundy truffles, garlic truffles, and even a few other species of fungi often referred as a truffle. They are a hot culinary commodity, but used quite sparingly thanks to their high price and strong–but magnificent!– taste. Some truffles are used raw, shaved or diced thinly and topping everything from salads to pastas to meats and cheeses.
Black truffles, which have a bit more refined taste than pungent white truffles, are used to make truffle salt and truffle honey, the most magic salts and honeys ever created. Truffle oil is a close second, though most truffle oils don’t actually contain any truffles, but are artificially flavored olive oils. We still give them two thumbs up, and if you’ve ever tasted truffle fries, you will too.