The answer to what truffles tastes like differs from one person to another. This is because each person has a different encounter with truffles.
If you have dined in fine restaurants, I’m pretty sure you have seen truffles on the menu. Truffles are an exotic dish and are therefore quite expensive. A lot of people think that restaurants just hike the prices for the sake of it, but that is not true. Truffles are worth every penny.
When cooked properly, truffles can actually get you addicted. They are that delicious. They also have an aroma that is to die for.
Truffles are mostly harvested in Italy and France. An interesting fact is that they take approximately ten years to grow before they are ready for harvesting. This long period is one of the reasons why truffles are so costly.
Truffles have an exquisite taste that is not easy to describe. Simply put, truffles have an earthy, meaty and gummy flavor.
They are juicy and sweet with savory notes similar to that of black olives. Before we get into the details of what truffles taste like, let’s learn about them a little bit.
What are truffles?
Truffles are actually a fungus. They are among the ten out of 86 accepted Tuber species that are consumed as delicacies. A lot of people confuse them with mushrooms because of their fruiting bodies and spores.
Truffles actually grow underground. They thrive in calcareous soils which explains why they are mostly grown in Italy and France. In terms of appearance, they look like lumpy potatoes with rough skin. They have a spongy texture and an earthy aroma.
Since they grow underground, truffles derive their nutrients from large trees. Most of the time they attach themselves to oaks and beeches.
Truffles get their nutrients from the roots of these large trees. Since these roots dig deep, the truffles also grow as deep as the roots. Consequently, harvesting truffles becomes a difficult task.
This may sound a little bit weird, but in order to harvest truffles, farmers use well-trained professional dogs.
The dogs can trace the presence of truffles using their sense of smell. In the past, farmers used pigs. Unfortunately, the pigs would end up eating most of the truffles. The trained dogs are a better fit because they do not eat truffles.
Cultivating truffles is expensive, hectic, and time consuming. The harvesting process is not easy either.
You may be wondering why anyone would go through this much trouble for fungi. Well, truffles are special and worth it. When sold, the return on investment is worth all the trouble.
Female pigs were used because it is believed that the scent given off by truffles is almost similar to that of the testosterone given out by male pigs.
The only and major problem that was encountered with the use of female pigs is that the pigs also loved the truffles and would thus eat them whenever they found them.
These days, dogs can be trained to sniff out truffles from the ground when harvesting the truffles (yes, this thing is highly sought after that people train dogs to sniff them out). Unlike the female pigs, dogs are more welcome to exchanging the truffles for a treat such as a sausage.
The fruit and body of the truffle are what is commonly referred to as the ascoma of truffles and this is the highest-priced part of a truffle.
While some people describe truffles as having a rather strong foul, pungent or disgusting smell, others describe them to have a sort of fried walnut or sunflower smell (an acquired taste really).
How Do Truffles taste like?
Just go round and ask people to describe the taste of truffles to you and I promise you will end up with a million adjectives ranging from tasting like garlic, mushroom-like, earthy, musky, nutty, woody to extremes of gamey.
As I mentioned at the beginning, the taste of truffles is not easy to describe. A lot of people say that truffles taste like mushrooms but I disagree. Comparing the flavor of truffles with that of mushrooms is a disservice.
Truffles have a unique flavor. I would describe the flavor of truffles as funky, earthy, and meaty flavor. Black and white truffles have a similar taste when cooked. However, you may find the flavor of black truffles more intense compared to the white ones.
White truffles can be served raw because their flavor is not as intense as the black ones. Black truffles can’t be eaten raw because of the intense flavor and aroma.
In terms of aroma, a lot of people describe it as garlic-like and musky. Several chefs claim that the aroma of truffles is therapeutic.
They have even dubbed it the ‘drug aroma’. There are a few scientific reports that the aroma of truffles is affiliated with mammalian reproductive pheromones.
The appearance of truffles is very deceiving. In fact, it is a classic case of ‘do not judge a book by its cover’. On the face of it, truffles do not look appetizing in any way. Some chefs try to cut the truffles into smaller pieces to make them more appealing.
How and where do Truffles grow?
Though there exist multiple species of truffles that are found all over the world, the very best and most sought-after truffles come from specific areas, yes, the same way we know that the best champagne is from the Champagne area of France.
The process of growing and cultivating truffles is not an easy one and has even been described as frustrating by many truffle farmers. This is due to the fact that the process of growing and cultivating truffles can take anywhere from as little as three years or even four years (and that is only an average). Being such a tricky process, the fruit at the end of the harvest can be very disappointing if the truffles just do not germinate.
Farmers these days usually inoculate the fungi spores of the truffles they want to cultivate into the trees that they have, be they oak or hazelnut trees. This usually happens when these trees are still but mere seedlings and each tree is usually a good distance from the next one to allow for a wider network of roots and avoid intertwining.
As these trees then grow, the truffles should ideally also grow and attach themselves to the roots of the trees. The beauty of this process is that the truffles and the trees have this symbiotic relationship going on.
The truffles do their part in helping the tree to get nourishment and key minerals that it needs from the soil while the trees, in turn, give the truffles the sugar that they need in the form of glucose.
At harvest time or as it is best-known hunting time, the truffle farmers enlist the help of specially trained dogs and sometimes female pigs to help with the process.
The reason for this is that the dogs and female pigs are able to pick up on the aroma much easily as compared to a human being. Keep in mind that this hunting of truffles can be a very frustrating process yielding little to no fruit because of factors like the climate of the place, the soil, and even just the sheer luck of the truffle farmer.
It’s also worth mentioning that at times, truffles can end up growing naturally in the wild. This is caused when an animal such as a pig digs up and eats a truffle then proceeds to pop out the spores of the truffle and thus spreading them to the new area where the animal is.
Different types of truffles
Like most edible fungi, there are different types of truffles. These types have different names which tend to get people confused especially when looking at the menu in a five-star restaurant.
These different types are usually of different quality and flavors. They are also priced differently.
The most common ones in the market are black truffles, white truffles, and summer truffles. I suggest that you go for these common varieties because not all truffles are edible.
Black truffles are very common in France. They attach themselves to the roots of hazelnut and oak trees. Therefore, they are found deep in the ground.
Black truffles are more affordable compared to the other varieties. In France, they are harvested in the late autumn or a few months after depending on whether they are ready for harvest.
You can buy black truffles whole or the less expensive version that is in minced form. The minced form is usually mixed with oils and stored in jars. Unlike white truffles, black truffles cannot be eaten raw.
White truffles are another common type of truffles. They are also known as Alba truffles because they are mostly grown in the city of Alba, Italy. Compared to the other types of truffles, white truffles are the most expensive.
White truffles are mostly harvested in the autumn season. Since they are quite popular, the locals usually hold a festival to celebrate the harvest. The festival is called ‘Fiera del Tartufo'. The locals celebrate by eating, selling, and buying white truffles.
White truffles are very common in restaurants. Most of the time, they are served as supplements. White truffles can either be eaten raw or cooked.
Summer truffles are my favorite because they have an exquisite flavor. Summer truffles are the only ones that have ‘gleba’ inside them. Gleba is chocolate-colored and is usually found inside the truffle.
Summer truffles have a very strong flavor thanks to the gleba. They also have a strong and pleasant aroma.
On the outside, summer truffles look very similar to black truffles. What distinguishes them from the black truffles is the gleba.
Choosing the best truffles
If you are buying truffles whole, you need to choose the best ones. You can tell which truffles are best by using these simple tips.
First, look out for any holes. Holes are usually an indication that insects got into the truffle. You should also look out for lumps of clay-rich soil stuck on the truffles. Truffles are usually sold by weight and the soil may just add onto the weight and you won’t get value for your money.
Try smelling the truffle. Fresh truffles usually have a pleasant smell. If the aroma is off don’t buy that particular batch of truffles.
I recommend buying truffles during their harvesting season. This is because truffles tend to lose their flavor and aroma a few weeks after harvesting.
You should also buy truffles from specialty stores. Ordinary superstores do not store them properly so the truffles tend to lose their flavor and aroma.
How to eat Truffles
Generally speaking, truffles have the best flavor while they are at room temperature. When using white truffles, do not cook or apply any heat to them because they happen to be very delicate in nature.
They are best served shaved on top of a dish. Black truffles on the other hand are okay if cooked just slightly. They fair extremely well when they are folded into warm dishes.
Cooking truffles is quite easy. The process is quite straightforward. With white truffles, all you need to do is remove the top part and warm the truffle until you achieve the flavor that you want. Alternatively, you can just eat them raw.
Black truffles need to be cooked for much longer. This is because they have a very intense flavor. They also have a pungent aroma. When cooked properly the aroma of black truffles is pleasant.
You can use truffles in several recipes. When using them in a cooking recipe, it is best to add them towards the end of your cooking. If you add them at the beginning, the truffles will overcook and the flavor won’t be good.
I love adding truffles to my pasta and pizza. Truffles go quite well with almost every savory Mexican dish. Just chop up your truffles, sprinkle them over your dish, and you are good to go. Truffles add an amazing flavor to dishes.
You can also serve truffles alongside other dishes. I love eating my truffles with mashed potatoes or potato wedges. The flavors complement each other perfectly. Another perfect side dish is eggs. Truffles served alongside scrambled eggs is a delightful breakfast.
Salads that have onions and celery as ingredients taste better with truffles. Just chop the truffles and sprinkle them over your salad.
Is a Truffle a mushroom
Well, truffles and mushrooms are both fungi. in fact, some people call them the luxury cousins of the mushroom so it can be easy to confuse them for each other as they have some similarities say in flavor and appearance.
However, the difference usually comes in the way that they grow.
While it is now common knowledge that truffles grow underground, mushrooms typically tend to grow above the ground.
Why real Truffles are so expensive
There are a lot of things that happen and activities that take place that directly influence the price of truffles.
Let us start from the fact that truffles do not necessarily grow all year round, they are very rare and Truffles are stubborn and only grow in some very specific conditions, for instance, they require a very specific altitude and even specific alkalinity to be contained in the soil (which is not easy to attain) for them to grow. The growing process can even be considered frustrating at times.
Another fact that can make truffles rather expensive is the relatively short shelf life that truffles have. This means that the truffles will have to make their way to you in record time in order for you to really and truly enjoy their flavor and quality.
Once they are dug up, truffles immediately begin losing water in the form of evaporation. This translates to sparing no expense in ensuring that the truffles get to you in absolutely good quality.
We should also take into account the fact that you have to also specially train dogs that will help in the process of hunting for truffles as they are not recognizable to the human nose.
Are truffles healthy?
Not to be confused with the confectionary truffles that are chocolate, real truffles have a bunch of health benefits and nutritional value to the human body. These include:
- Truffles are rich in nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that the human body uses up for specific purposes and functions within it.
- Truffles come high in proteins, fiber, and vitamins such as vitamin C. We should note that according to certain studies, white truffles are actually higher in protein, fat, and fiber than other types.
- Truffles are also a great source of antioxidants. These antioxidants are important to many aspects of a person’s health and are even linked promoting a lower risk of chronic conditions for individuals who regularly partake in truffles.
Truffles are also quite easy to add to your diet, well, provided you can get your hands on them.
Do truffles make you high?
Black truffles make the dogs and pigs that go hunting for them get lost in a frantic and dazed episode. Black truffles contain a “bliss” molecule. This molecule in science is named anandamide.
It has been discovered that this bliss molecule behaves like the psychoactive ingredient found in marijuana.
This simply means that it can cause the release of a mood-enhancing chemical in your brain. So, in short, lack of truffles can make you high, but only if consumed in large quantities.
Do Truffles go bad?
As with all other vegetables and fruits or farm produce, they begin to wilt and go bad after they have been harvested. The only difference is that some vegetables and fruits tend to go bad faster than others.
The short answer to this question is that yes, truffles do go bad and they go bad fast. Truffles have an insanely short shelf life.
They can last for between five and six days once you get them depending on whether they are fresh.
How to store Truffles
Truffles should be eaten as soon as possible after they are harvested. For this reason, I do not recommend storing truffles for long periods of time. The aroma, flavor, and quality of truffles can only be maintained for a week or two.
The best place to store truffles is inside the refrigerator. Storing them in the refrigerator increases their shelf life.
Simply rub the truffles with a slightly wet kitchen towel to remove any dirt. Place them inside an airtight container and close the lid tightly. I recommend using plastic containers if you want them to last for much longer. The truffles will stay fresh for approximately two weeks.
The closed container helps in that it prevents the truffles from oxidizing and thus getting spoilt while also containing the aroma of the truffles which is a rather strong one that can diffuse into other food items kept with or around the truffles.
Keeping the truffles wrapped in paper or kitchen towel helps them to stay dry. This is good because wet truffles tend to deteriorate very fast.
It is important to understand that one ought not to clean their truffles until they are ready to actually use them.
The way to clean truffles is neither to run them under running water nor to submerge them in a basin or container of water (this will only cause the truffles to absorb more water which is not a good thing that you want to happen).
The best way to wash truffles is to use a clean toothbrush or potato brush that has soft bristles. Deep the brush in warm water and gently clean the crevices of the truffles and remember to thoroughly dry them with paper towels.
Because truffles lose their aroma very fast, it would be wise to not cut into them also until you are ready to use or consume them.
If you bought truffles and have no intention of using them immediately, you can choose to freeze them. This will allow the truffles to last for a longer period of time of up to six months.
The best way to go about freezing your truffles is to ensure that as stated above, you do not clean or cut them and that you store them in a resealable airtight plastic container or a freezer-safe Ziploc bag.
Wrap the truffles in the kitchen or paper towels before placing them in the container and then into the freezer. Also, remember to change out the wrapping kitchen or paper towels ever so often to avoid them becoming wet translating into wet truffles which are no good.
Where to buy Truffles
When it comes to purchasing truffles, one ought to be careful and very keen. Foremost, you should only go buy truffles from a trusted source. This will save you money and heartache from not getting genuine truffles.
The freshness of truffles is judged not only from their strong aroma but from examining their firmness and even color of the flesh. When buying truffles, do not go for the ones that look like they just won a best-dressed title at a pageant.
Fresh truffles need to be bumpy to the touch and ugly to look at. A distortion in shape does not translate to poor or low quality in taste. Because truffles begin to lose taste immediately, they are dug up, it would be best to ask the store owner when the truffles arrived at the store or grocery and when they were harvested so that you can make out just how long they have been uprooted for.
If you receive this information but are still not sure then the next step is to carry out the sniff test. Simply put, if you take a nice long whiff from the truffles and you are not hit by that strong aroma, or if it just so happens to be faint or generally “off”, just leave the truffles.
What is truffle oil?
Truffle oil can be said to be a less authentic, less expensive alternative to actual truffles. It is simply cooking oil such as olive oil or even sunflower oil that has been infused with the aroma of white or black truffles at times.
But, most times, the cooking oil has just been infused with a form of synthetic flavoring or with the aroma of white or black truffles that are of lesser quality.
Just like with actual real truffles, it is not advisable for a person to actually do cooking with the truffle oil. This is because once exposed to heat, the truffle oil becomes altered. It is better to use your truffle oil as sort of finishing up oil. Finish preparing your meal, be it eggs, vegetables, or even fries, then just sprinkle a drizzle of your truffle oil over the meal and enjoy.
The health benefits that accrue to you greatly depend on the type of truffle oil that you get and end up using, that is, whether it is synthetic or pure. Essentially, truffle oil has the following health benefits and advantages;
- It helps in improving one’s heart health because it is low in cholesterol.
- It reduces inflammation.
- It helps in increasing blood circulation.
- It helps in the management of diseases such as diabetes.
- It aids in boosting the immune system.
Again, depending on the quality of truffle oil that you use in your meals, you may experience some side effects which vary from individual to individual. These include;
- Since truffle oil possesses the same blood pressure-lowering properties of olive oil, for a person who is already on blood pressure medication to help lower their blood pressure, truffle oil can lead to a significant drop and end up causing hypotension, a very dangerous ailment if not properly handled.
- On that same limb, truffle oil has the ability to regulate insulin and glucose levels in the body and decrease blood sugar. It goes without saying that this is no good for individuals that are diabetic and already on blood sugar-lowering medication.
- Skin irritation can occur when using this oil for topical use. If you have sensitive skin, it would be wise to just stay away from using truffle oil.
- As with almost everything else in the kitchen, too much of truffle oil is not good. When truffle oil is consumed in large amounts, truffle oil can cause stomach-aches, diarrhea, nausea, and even vomiting. Ensure to use it in moderation. Not exceeding the daily recommended intake of one tablespoon per day.
- Truffles are a form of fungi that grow at the roots of a host tree.
- Truffles are mainly categorized into either black or white truffles.
- Truffles are hunted by specially trained dogs and sometimes even female pigs.
- Truffles are very rare and extremely seasonal.
- In ancient Greece, it was believed that truffles were formed when lightning would strike the damp ground.
- Truffles are known to be the diamond of the kitchen.
- The largest truffle ever found was unearthed in 2014 and weighed 1.9 whole kilograms.
- France just so happens to be the largest producer of truffles in the world.
- For a long time, truffles were considered an aphrodisiac.
- Ancient Greeks and Romans are known to have used truffles as medicines.
- There exist more than one hundred different types of truffles that can be found in some twelve countries throughout the world.
- It is a long-standing belief that truffles are mushrooms, which started growing underground to beat forest fires, drought, and the severe cold.
- Many truffle oils and salts are made with chemicals and not actual truffles.
- Until the year 1930, there was only one Royal warrant to hunt for truffles in the United Kingdom. This warrant was given to a family in Wiltshire called the Collins family.
- Seeing how expensive truffles are, it comes as no surprise that there exists a black market for these truly delicious fungi.
Truffles are amazing. They may be expensive, but the exquisite taste is worth every coin.
Next time you go to a restaurant you should try them. You just might get addicted.