What would you say to someone who offered to sell you black, irregularly shaped, subterranean fungi to shave over salads or soups? Maybe you would be intrigued, though a little put off by the strange appearance. Now what would you say when you found out the going price was $1,000 a pound?
It may seem hard to believe, but this scenario could describe the process you might undergo in order to buy truffles, a delicious wild fungus . The black truffle and the even rarer white truffle often fetch incredibly high prices. They only grow in very specific environments in the wild, and attempts to cultivate them have been unsuccessful. CBS News reports that truffles are found in Italy, France, and Western Australia.
What Is A Black Truffle?
These black “diamonds of the kitchen” grow at the base of oak trees. They give off a pungent aroma when they became ripe, so truffle hunters use trained dogs to seek out the scent. The truffles are collected in this manner, one by one, so a truffle hunter never knows when he is going to score big. Once the truffle is located, it is harvested and then either frozen, canned, or sold fresh, depending on its color and quality. Because black truffles depend on a rare combination of environmental factors, cultivation has been disappointing. Truffle hunting using dogs, a tradition that dates back hundreds of years, is consistently the best way to find a high quality truffle.
Black Truffles In The Kitchen
Demand for these expensive truffles might be hard to understand. Why would someone pay so much money for a tiny fungus? Truffle aficionados say that one must simply taste a truffle to find out. The taste is often described as ineffable and earthy, pungent and addictive, woodsy and deep. Indeed, the truffle is known for its special flavor. And certainly the truffle’s appeal reflects a desire for a food that is rare and special. Black truffles are often shaved or sliced thinly, and then may be added to pasta dishes, risotto, or eggs. The key is to allow the truffle’s flavor to shine, instead of covering it up with other pungent spices and flavors. Some chefs also use truffle oil, which is a less expensive way to introduce truffle flavor into a dish.
Unless you are a millionaire, black truffles are likely something you will only experience at very select times. The truffle’s rare nature and unique taste make for a truly special dining experience.
- “Where to find the best of everything, worldwide”, CBS News
- “Truffles: The Most Expensive Food in the World”, CBS News 60 Minutes
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