What Are Truffles? Unwrap the Mystery
What Are Truffles, and What Do They Taste Like?
When you think of a fancy meal, you probably think of soufflés, crème brûlée, and truffle oil. However, while these certainly are viewed as luxury food items, they are now becoming much more popular in everyday kitchens — especially truffle oil.
This dynamic flavor goes with everything from pasta dishes to fried chicken wings. Its fresh, savory, and earthy flavor is used as a finishing touch and it’s a crucial ingredient that we can’t get enough of.
Real truffles are rare, but once you’ve had the chance to sample them, you'll never forget the experience. From their unique taste to their seasonality, they are a truly unique culinary experience. These edible fungi are one of the most sought-after foods in the world.
If you want to step up your culinary knowledge, learning about truffles can excite your senses in a new way! This is everything you need to know about what edible truffles are, what different types of truffles you might find, and what truffles taste like.
What Are Truffles?
Truffles are a fungus that grows underground at or near the base of trees known as host trees, but not all trees are suitable places for truffles to grow. Typically host trees include poplar, beech, and oak trees.
Truffle fungi grow worldwide in many different varieties. They can be distinguished by their color, shape, size, and flavor.
Truffles don’t look like the typical capped mushrooms called boletus fungi. In fact, they look more like odd little potatoes when you first see them. Don’t let their appearance fool you — these natural wonders are packed with incredible flavor!
While there are different varieties of truffles, only some are considered edible for humans. Many wild, non-commercial varieties are toxic.
Truffles can be found in most countries, but they are most common in France and Italy. The most common type of truffle is the alba or white truffle. These delicious mushrooms grow in Italy, France, and Spain. They can cost up to $2300 per pound!
If you've never had truffles before, you're missing out on an experience that will change your life forever. Truffle lovers will tell you that once you try one for yourself, there's no going back and we'd have to agree!
How Do People Find Truffles?
Truffles are mushrooms that grow underground in forests. They're shaped like small, unsymmetrical balls and can be found by digging, especially near tree roots.
They have a distinct earthy smell and taste. Truffles can be found in the wild by all kinds of animals, including dogs, pigs, pigeons, rats, badgers, moles, horses, rabbits, and raccoons. In fact, you can even purchase truffle-hunting kits for dogs online.
Once it matures, humans harvest a truffle by digging up the plant, cutting off several parts of the root system at various depths for use, and replanting the rest elsewhere so they can continue growing.
These truffles are acquired in many ways, ranging from truffle farms to truffle hunters. Today, truffle products are sourced from both wild and farmed truffles that are found in countless places around the world today, including:
- New Zealand
- North America's Pacific Northwest
- New York
- Tuscany, Alba, and Piedmont regions of Italy
- The Périgord region of France
How Does Truffle Hunting Work?
Truffle hunting is a seasonal activity that usually takes place from September to November, though this can change when hunting specific types of truffle. Additionally, there are many different methods to find truffles depending on which species of truffle you're looking to harvest.
Here are some of the most common ways that truffle hunters search for this particular subterranean fungi:
The most common method of truffle hunting is using specially trained dogs to sniff out black truffles underground. Once they've located a truffle, they dig it up with their teeth and give it to their master. Any dirt or debris is quickly removed and the fungi is sealed in an airtight container to preserve its decadent aroma.
Pigs are also trained to find truffles similarly to dogs. They do this by smelling or tasting the ground in certain areas where there might be truffles below them. Sometimes hunters use their feet instead of their snouts for searching purposes. Female pigs are the most common pigs that are used for this purpose because the scent of truffles is vaguely similar to the scent of a male pig.
This bird may not seem like an obvious choice for truffle hunting, but pigeons can do a good job locating these fungi if given enough time and training! Some hunters choose to use pigeons because they don't require special equipment (such as collars), as pigs or dogs would.
What Do Truffles Taste Like?
Truffles have a distinct flavor that is both earthy and mushroom-like, but it’s a much more intense flavor than you’d get from your average mushroom. The taste is hard to describe, but it's easy to understand why they’re so loved once you’ve experienced it for yourself!
Some people compare truffles' taste to the forest floor in the summertime when everything is green and fresh after a cooling rain. Others say that truffles have a savory, meaty taste with hints of nuttiness or brininess — almost like a really good green olive.
The flavor of the truffles can vary depending on which variety you choose. Among the many varieties are:
- White truffles
- Black truffles
- Summer truffles
- Burgundy truffles
- Périgord truffles
- French black
- Black summer truffles
What Foods Go Well With Truffles?
In addition to being a luxury food, truffles can be used to flavor other foods. Truffle oil is a prime example of a versatile use for truffles. Truffle oil has a robust aroma and should be used sparingly to avoid overpowering the other flavors in a dish. It’s most often made from olive oil, which has a smooth, distinct flavor that perfectly complements truffles.
Other products that incorporate truffle can include truffle salt, hot sauce, truffle butter, and truffle cheese (specifically Parmesan cheese). Truffles can also be sliced or shredded and placed around the rim of a plate or sprinkled over a salad for visual appeal.
There are also ice creams and chocolates flavored with black or white truffle. Honey can even be made with the fungus for some palate contrast. You may also find pasta sauces mixed with truffles. These sauces tend to have an intense flavor that pair well with red meats like beef.
You can even drizzle a little truffle oil on your popcorn for a super simple truffle add-in. Up the flavor of this savory snack at home by combining white peppercorns and fresh thyme leaves with your oil before drizzling over lightly salted kernels.
Many food lovers use truffle oils and salts as a garnish on various French and Italian foods like risotto, salads, and pasta. The umami flavor that comes with these mushrooms ensures that every dish they are added to will almost magically taste better.
Embrace the Truffle
Here at TRUFF, we believe that one of the best ways to indulge in truffles is through truffle oil. It's a versatile product that can enhance everything from grilled cheese sandwiches to burgers to the most ornate dishes a chef can make. With its potent, unique flavor, our truffle oil and other products are sure to wow your taste buds and blow away dinner guests.
We've got you covered whether you're looking for hot sauce, mayo, oil, or something to add a little oomph to your pasta. Just browse through our selection of truffle-infused products, and we're sure you'll find something that will fit your preference!
If taking your taste buds to the next level interests you, feel free to check out our line of flavor-enhancing truffle products here at TRUFF!