When you visit a fine dining restaurant, the first thing to do is scour through the menu. There is a chance that you might come across a few dishes with ‘truffle’ written in the title. Many people may have heard about it but not a lot have tasted an actual truffle. This could be down to its cost or unavailability of the product.Truffles are one of the treasured items in the culinary world. As a result, their price is considerably high.
The prices vary for different types of truffles, the highest being for white truffle. The white truffle is known as ‘The Truffle of White Madonna’. Its flavor and aroma is the strongest among all types. In 2017, the prices had reached up to € 4,500 per kilogram!What are truffles made of?The image of truffles can be disappointing, but what else can we expect from a fruiting body of a fungus! This exotic fruiting body belongs to the genus Tuber. On the inside, the truffle is a densely packed with reproductive tissue and studded with spores.
They have a pungent odor that is because of sulfur volatile compounds or metabolites of non-sulfur amino acids. The smell is similar to pheromone androstenol. Truffle grows underground and it forms a symbiotic relationship with the roots of many trees. Symbiotic relation indicates that there is an exchange of nutrients or the tuber uses nutrients from the trees. In terms of soil requirements, it should contain calcium carbonate and other clay-like compounds. As it grown underground, it is necessary for the soil to be well aerated and its pH should be alkaline or neutral.How to grow them?The high price of truffles is because of it being seasonal and rare. As mentioned before the truffle grows in very specific conditions and this makes cultivation of truffles a difficult job.
Even though people have been able to cultivate them, the results have not been the best. The process of making a piece of land good enough to grow truffles is a long one. One should start looking for truffles after 7-15 years of cultivation. The spores need to be properly spread across the land. The plantation should have oak, hazelnut, poplar, and beech trees for better growth. The time taken depends on the method of cultivation.
Tanguy method – This method is cost saving and does not alter the growing environment. The farmer uses mowing as a method of weed control. This method is not very different from growing truffles in the forest. Pallier method – This method is more intensive than Tanguy method. The farmer alters and controls all the elements that are required for the growth of truffles. Tilling is performed to control weeds. This also helps in aerating the soil. Irrigation and pruning of trees is performed to maintain soil moisture and expose the proper amount of sunlight to the fungi respectively.
Both methods have their pros and cons. While following Tanguy method helps you mimic the wild conditions but it takes longer time for truffles to grow. In case of the Pallier method, the farmer has more control on his land and it could help in higher yield. However, the method needs to be monitored otherwise it could more harmful to the yield as excessive tilling could disturb the roots itself.
What are truffles used for?The primary use of truffles is in cooking. The types used in cooking are Black truffle (melanosporum), Burgundy truffle (aestivum), and White truffle (magnatum). These are the major types of truffles with high economic value. You can find them in major countries of Europe such as France, Italy, Spain, and Croatia.For them to be used, they need to reach their respective customers. This has a time limit as the truffle starts to lose moisture after being unearthed. So they need to reach the restaurants or distributors in no more than 36 hours.
The truffles have a highly pungent odor. As a result, they are used very carefully. Truffle is used in its raw form. Application of heat reduces its aroma and flavor. It is added in the form of shavings on top of dishes such as pasta and salads. The black truffle is not as sensitive as other truffles and used with meat. Thin slices or shavings of truffle are inserted into the meat and then the meat is cooked.
Some chefs use the skin of a truffle to make sauces as well. Furthermore, the flavor of truffles is infused with different items to create products. Some of them are truffle salt, truffle honey, and truffle vodka.