If you watch any cooking shows you may see chef’s using truffle oil. While they are used in the culinary world, they aren’t used frequently in the home kitchen and for good reason…..the price. According to Business Insider, in 2014 the world’s largest truffle mushroom weighing in at 4.16 pounds sold at auction for $61,260. Even that price doesn’t beat the previous record holder of a truffle sold in 2010 for $417,200. (1, 2)
So What Exactly is a Truffle Mushroom?
A truffle, unlike other mushrooms, is subterranean, meaning this edible fungus grows underground. They mainly feed off of tree roots like hazelnuts and oaks and grow about one to four inches below the surface. The trees provide them with the sugars they need to grow and the fungus produces phosphorus for the tree. They typically reach maturity in about five years and can be harvested at that time. (3)
Although they are classified as a mushroom, their texture is very different. A truffle has a harder scaly appearance, with an interior texture like that of a potato. They are still harvested by trained animals such as dogs or pigs who sniff them out. The most common truffles you are likely to see are black or white truffles.
While truffles grow wild in the forest, they are also cultivated. The roots of young oak or hazelnut saplings can be inoculated with truffle spores that will grow once the tree is planted. As mentioned previously it will take about five years until the first crop can be harvested. After that, they can continue to produce for 40 to 80 years. (4)
Black truffles were originally found in the Perigord region of southwest France. This variety can be found growing under oak trees from September to December. Black truffle can sell for more than $400 a pound. (5)
White truffles were originally grown in the Piedmont area of northern Italy. This variety can grow on the roots of beech, hazel, oak and poplar trees, usually in fall and winter months. White truffles are far more costly, in excess of $2,200 a pound. (6)
Benefits of Truffle Mushroom
- Truffles have been used to promote health, as well as in the prevention of disease. They have also been reported as having anti-inflammatory, anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial, immunosupportive and antioxidant properties. (7, 8)
- Because truffle oil is traditionally made with olive oil, there are additional health benefits from the oil as well, such as healthier skin, regulation of blood sugar and lower risk of cancer.
- Truffles are also a rich source of proteins, amino acids, fatty acids, fiber, minerals, vitamins, terpenoids, sterols, flavor compounds, and carbohydrates. (9)
- Truffles are essential mineral rich-Truffles are a rich source of essential minerals such as calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, sodium and zinc. (10)
- Cancer fighter-Truffles are rich in antioxidants that can help to prevent free radical damage in your body. (11)
- Truffles also offer skin protection from aging, due to their antioxidant content. (12)
- The Truffle Controversy
So if a truffle mushroom sells for anywhere from $400-$2,200 a pound, how can anything you buy be reasonably priced and authentic? I recently found truffle oil at a large chain health food store, it was a 1.8-ounce bottle for $14.99. So even if you go with the lowest price of truffles at $400 a pound, shouldn’t that bottle be closer to $37, if it was the real thing?
Quite simply most truffle oils are fake. In many cases, it is olive oil mixed with chemicals such as 2, 4-dithiapentane, a laboratory-created chemical which simulates the aroma and taste of white truffles. Many professional chefs are aware of the fact that most truffle oil is synthetic. (13, 14)
So how do you know if you are buying the real thing? Check your labels, if it says “truffle aroma”, “truffle flavoring”, “truffle essence”, keep looking, those are keywords for synthetic truffle oil.
You may consider making your own truffle oil, which is incredibly simple and requires two ingredients fresh or dried truffles and olive oil. There are numerous recipes available online for truffle oil, truffle butter, and truffle salt.
How to Use Truffles
Truffle has a very strong flavor and is meant to be used sparingly. Consider using it as a drizzle or topping on your favorite dishes such as pasta, salad or pizza.
This guest post was written by Elisha of My Health Maven. She is deeply passionate about educating people and empowering them to lead healthier lives. We encourage you to check out her blog and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest!
- A. (2014, December 08). World’s Largest Truffle Sells For $61,250 At Auction. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from http://www.businessinsider.com/afp-worlds-largest-truffle-sells-for-61250-at-auction-2014-12
- Now World’s Largest White Truffle. (2014, December 6). Retrieved June 4, 2018, from http://www.sothebys.com/en/auctions/2014/white-truffle-n09231.html
- Just Fun Facts. (1967, January 01). Retrieved June 4, 2018, from http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-truffles
- Orlin, M. (2017, December 07). 10 Things You Need To Know About Truffles. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-orlin/10-things-know-truffles_b_1216307.html?slideshow=true#gallery/205594/4
- Stiavetti, S. (n.d.). What Is a Truffle? Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://gourmet.lovetoknow.com/What_Is_a_Truffle
- Molitoris, H. P. (1994, January 24). Mushrooms in medicine. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02906801
- Antioxidant components and antioxidant/antiradical activities of desert truffle (Tirmania nivea) from various Middle Eastern origins. (2009, October 28). Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157509002154?via=ihub
- Bokhary, H. A., & Parvez, S. (2002, April 26). Chemical Composition of Desert Truffles Terfezia claveryi. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0889157583710318?via=ihub
- The biochemistry and biological properties of the world’s most expensive underground edible mushroom: Truffles. (2011, June 28). Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0963996911003711?via=ihub
- Yan, X., Wang, Y., Sang, X., & Fan, L. (2017). Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5484652/
- Masaki, H. (2010, May). Role of antioxidants in the skin: Anti-aging effects. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20399614
- Splivallo, R., & Ebeler, S. E. (2015, January 10). Sulfur volatiles of microbial origin are key contributors to human-sensed truffle aroma. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00253-014-6360-9
- Patterson, D. (2007, May 16). Hocus-Pocus, and a Beaker of Truffles. Retrieved June 4, 2018, from https://www.nytimes.com/2007/05/16/dining/16truf.html?_r=0
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