WHAT IS A TRUFFLE?
The truffle is the fruiting body of a fungus which grows underground, near the roots of trees, with which they have a symbiotic relationship. They resemble a rough-skinned, black potato and have a long famous history of being highly prized for eating. There are hundreds of different kinds of truffles, and while none are known to be poisonous, only a few of them are considered to be delicacies by humans.
What are chocolate truffles? Do they use real truffles?
No, but they should be!
A chocolate truffle is a type of confectionery made with a chocolate ganache center coated in chocolate and chopped toasted nuts. Their name is derived from their resemblance to truffles.
Not many people realise: real truffles go excellently with chocolate and make a delicious treat when used in desserts, sweets or chocolate cocktails.
Where do truffles grow?
Most edible truffles grow near the roots of types of tree species, including beech, poplar, oak, birch, hornbeam, hazel, and pine. Truffles have been found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, North America and are cultivated in New Zealand, Australia, and China.
Is a truffle a mushroom, a fruit or a vegetable?
Truffles are the fruit of very special members of the fungi kingdom. A truffle can generally be considered a type of mushroom under a definition that states “any spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungi a mushroom”. This is generally true even though truffles grow below ground and don’t have a prominent stem or spore-bearing surface like most other mushrooms.
Why are truffles expensive?
Truffles are expensive because they are so hard to cultivate, and in the wild, they are difficult to find. Truffles are delicate and only grow in very specific conditions, they take years to yield edible fruit and all the effort, expense and time it takes to bring them to harvest makes them an expensive food to produce.
What is the nutritional breakdown of truffles?
Truffles are low calories, low fat, low salt and have no cholesterol. They provide an enormous amount of dietary fiber, protein, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin B-6, calcium, iron, and magnesium.
How big are truffles?
The average size range of Périgord black truffles is typically around 30-60g but very large fruiting bodies up to 1kg (150mm diameter) may occasionally be produced. The largest found to date was in the Alpes‐Maritimes weighing in at 364 grams.
The average size range of Bianchetto truffles is smaller, typically 5-20g (walnut to egg size), but exceptional fruiting bodies up to 140g (orange size) have also been produced.
HOW DO TRUFFLES GROW?
Truffles are the “fruiting body” of fungi that grow on the roots of host trees in a symbiotic relationship. The truffle fungus explores the soil for water and mineral nutrients, which it passes along to the tree. In exchange, the tree provides sugars produced through photosynthesis to the fungus. The tree and the fungus depend on one another, but there are many tree species that can serve as hosts for the truffles, and many fungi that can fulfill the same role for the tree.
HOW ARE TRUFFLES HARVESTED?
The highest quality truffles that make their way to market are harvested with the help of trained truffle dogs, who can identify ripe truffles by scent while leaving unripe truffles to mature undisturbed in the ground. Unfortunately, some truffles are still harvested by raking, which indiscriminately produces mostly immature, unripe truffles. A truffle that is harvested before it reaches maturity will never properly ripen for culinary use.
Can truffles be poisonous?
No truffles are known to be poisonous to humans. However, many poisonous Amanita and Cortinarius mushrooms start out as belowground “eggs” that resemble truffles at a glance but can be distinguished from truffles by their spongy or cartilaginous feel.
How long are truffles good for?
Truffles have a short shelf life and should be eaten as soon as possible to enjoy at their best. Knowing how to care for truffles is important to look after them. They will keep for 1 - 2 weeks if stored carefully, however, the aroma and flavor will halve in about 5 days.
Can truffles be eaten raw?
To preserve all its aroma, a truffle should not be cooked too much. Add them just before consuming the meal, at the end of the cooking. In fact, eating fresh, just-harvested truffles raw is a great way to savour the taste of them. If you’ve stored your truffle properly in the freezer, the unfrozen truffle is almost still good as fresh.
What is the role of truffles in ecosystems?
Without truffles, the earth wouldn’t have many of the forests that it does, today. Truffles are an important part of the food chain since many animals rely on truffles as a food source, and in turn, the fungi rely on the animals eating them to distribute their spore. Trees rely on truffles for nutrient acquisition and truffles rely on the trees for energy (sugars from photosynthesis), while animals rely on trees for habitat.
Are truffles native to Australia?
There are species of truffles that are native to Australia and while they’re not poisonous, they're also not very tasty. Attempts to inoculate native species of trees with imported truffles have proven fruitless, so the Australian industry involves imported Tuber melanosporum fungi on trees.