When you hear the word “truffles,” what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Do you envision the chocolate treats that are beloved by many? Unfortunately, real truffles are actually mushrooms. Referred by chefs as the “diamonds of the kitchen,” truffles are frequently shaved and topped over Mediterranean dishes.
Truffles are also made into bases for Italian plates of pasta or pizza. The unique taste of this food goes well as a garnish over french fries or with fine entrees like aiolis. So revered are truffles that chefs around the world rave about the versatility of truffles and the difference they make in various dishes.
But what do truffles taste like, exactly? Could they really be everything chefs make them out to be? In this guide, we’re taking a closer look at truffles and what makes them such a hit.
What Are Truffles?
Truffles refer to a handful of species of fragrant fungus. Specifically, those from the Tuber genus. It’s interesting to point out that out of the 86 accepted species of Tuber, less than 10 are eaten as a delicacy.
Truffles tend to predominately grow underground. What’s more, they are typically found in calcareous soils throughout Asia and Europe. The appearance of truffles is that of rather lumpy potatoes with rough skin.
When feeling truffles, they present a firm yet spongy texture with a sweet and earthy aroma. As a subterranean spore species, the closest thing we can compare them to are wild mushrooms. But because truffles grow totally submerged in nutrient-rich soil, they have a robust and completely unique flavor that traditional mushrooms can’t compete with.
At their most basic, truffles are fancy subterranean mushrooms. Keep in mind that you can’t eat every mushroom pulled out of the ground. Any species referred to as a truffle, however, are safe to eat. This alone gives truffles a distinct advantage over mushrooms, making them far more versatile in the kitchen in terms of safety and flavor.
What Do Truffles Taste Like?
To compare the taste of truffles with the taste of mushrooms would be tantamount to treason. With that being said, it’s probably the best place to start when trying to describe what truffles taste like.
Moreover, explaining what truffles taste like is definitely not a simple venture. But they do contain the same grittiness and flavor as their over-the-ground counterparts.
While conveying the taste of truffles, some would agree that they taste just like they smell. And that is something akin to dark olives. Generally, the smell of new truffle spores is more grounded than the flavor, as even the most grounded dark truffles won’t overwhelm different their sense of taste.
Places of Growth
While the vast majority of the mainstream Tubers are mostly grown in Italy, France, Spain, and China, there are others that come from a variety of nations, such as the United States, Poland, Mexico, Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand.
While it’s true that these countries share a few likenesses across their landscapes, each produce truffles with uniquely varied flavors.
It’s important to note that there are numerous variables that can impact and play a role in the individual taste of different types of truffles, including:
- The tree roots which truffles connect themselves to during development
- The season that truffles are gathered
- The dirt that truffles grow in
- The region of origination
Furthermore, not all truffles taste alike. And even truffles of similar species can taste diverse when grown in various pieces of the world.
The general rule of thumb is that truffles of darker colors will have a more powerful taste. While there are always exceptions to this rule, it’s a relatively accurate saying to go by.
If you speak with anyone who has eaten their fair share of truffles is likely to reveal that these fragrant and tasty underground spores are both unique and complex, not unlike that of a fine wine.
As such, it is recommended that you try more than one truffle to truly develop a taste for these musky treats. You’ll find that they are a high-quality improvement over traditional mushrooms and one that is sure to attract you as a food connoisseur.
Related: What Does Eggplant Taste Like?
What are the Types of Truffles?
Truffles are the product of mycorrhizal fungi, typically in the Tuber class. Mycorrhizal organisms live in a harmonious relationship with the underlying roots of host trees or bushes, such as that of the oak tree and hazels.
At the point when the truffle mycelium fruits, it discharges a few sweet-smelling chemicals that give truffles the novel fragrance and taste they are so widely known for. Consequently, the worth of the truffle variety increases, as well.
What Do Truffles Smell Like?
As with any food product, the smell is equally important. The pungent aroma of the truffle tends to incorporate traces of garlic, cheddar, fruit, and sometimes phenol. This unique fragrance stands out to dogs. As such, dogs are commonly used to easily collect truffles when taught to do as such.
Truffles customarily have a place with the genera Terfezia, Tuber, and Leucangium; explicitly in the Ascomycotina division of the Fungi realm.
Moreover, there are numerous species that exceed 40. That said, not all of them fetch a valuable market price.
Popular Cultivations of Truffles
Some of the cultivated assortments include:
- Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum var. uncinatum)
- Oregon Black Truffle (Leucangium carthusianum)
- Black or Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum)
- Summer truffle (Tuber aestivum var. aestivum)
- Oregon White Truffle (Tuber oregonense)
- Winter truffle (Tuber brumale)
It’s also worth pointing out that not all truffle species are available commercially in the trade. In fact, the vast majority remain unknown to most consumers. These lesser-known species of truffle that are collected out in the wild often have an unreliable, almost inferior supply; or rather, an uncertain supply.
That’s because there are so few who are willing to hunt and collect them. As such, costs will, in general, be lower in the commercial market for species other than the Black Truffle. However, this frequently relies upon accessibility, freshness, and where the truffles are being sold.
Best Choices for Growth
The accompanying two species are the main business species in the present market. Therefore, we suggest picking one of these to serve as your main crop. You’re more likely to enjoy ample growth by doing so.
Commonly grown in either a burgundy or summer truffle, the Tuber Aestivum fruits in nearly all European countries. Notwithstanding, there are two assortments of this truffle – the Burgundy truffle (T. aestivum var. uncinatum) and the Summer truffle (Tuber aestivum var. aestivum).
Trees with a sybiosis to this species can create either subtype, or even both, contingent upon the environment and soil.
Without addressing taxonomical discussion in regards to their order, it is critical to take note that the two species are firmly related. They uncover minor contrasts at three levels, such as:
T. Aestivum var. uncinatum is found in colder regions with more natural soils.
More obscure gleba and the ornamentation of the spores are more clear in T. aestivum var. uncinatum.
T. uncinatum has a more articulated taste and fragrance. Obviously, reflected in the market cost for the two distinct assortments are these distinctions. The discount range is regularly between $250 per pound for T. aestivum and as much as $1,200 a pound for the best grade T. uncinatum.
Known as Black Truffles, this species grows best on common limestone soils or those corrected to give comparable conditions. Black truffles commonly grow with vaccinated oaks like Q. ilex, Q. coccifera, Q. ilex ssp. rotundifolia, or Q. faginea planted in Europe.
In North America, states with the most comparable soil construction and characteristics to optimal conditions for black truffles incorporate zones inside the Pacific Northwest, Southeast, and mid-Atlantic.
Moreover, pH may require a change in numerous locales of these areas. The expansion of pummeled limestone to the dirt achieves this, providing optimal conditions for black truffles.
Furthermore, black truffles normally show up at elevations somewhere in the range of 300 and 4,500 feet above ocean level. It is prudent to pick planting locales with a slight slant. This is done in an attempt not to flood, which could happen on flatlands and valley bottoms.
Similarly significant, it’s important to keep away from steep inclines where disintegration may prove dangerous.
Related: What Does Paprika Taste Like?
Are Truffles Healthy?
Truffles have acquired a lot of attention in the culinary world recently, turning into a top choice among gourmet experts and food connoisseurs.
There are various varieties, such as dark truffles, garlic truffles, white truffles, and summer truffles that have distinct contrasts in taste, appearance, and cost.
Not only do truffles have solid flavor and a pungent smell, but they also have profound nutritious benefits that have been connected to various incredible health effects. As such, this musky food is commonly used in supplements and in cooking to take advantage of its benefits.
Let’s shift our focus for a moment to talk about these benefits and how they can make a difference in your life.
Truffles are an incredible resource for antioxidants, special compounds that can help battle free radicals and combat oxidative harm to your cells.
Studies show that antioxidants are essential to numerous parts of your well-being and may even be connected to a lower risk of chronic diseases, like diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.
Despite the fact that the specific amounts can vary from person to person, studies show truffles to contain antioxidants like lycopene, vitamin C, gallic and homogentisic acids.
Due to these antioxidants, tests have revealed both high contrast truffles may reduce irritation and even assist in killing malignant growth on cells.
Note that these studies were performed utilizing concentrated extracts of truffles. As such, it’s still unclear as to how antioxidants in truffles impact your health and well-being.
Truffles have a rather impressive profile of nutrients. These are particularly high in many essential vitamins and minerals.
Moreover, they are rich in carbs, fiber, and protein. Truffles also contain both unsaturated and saturated fatty acids, and micronutrients like vitamin C, sodium, phosphorus, calcium, iron, magnesium, and manganese.
Researchers have determined that truffles might be an excellent source of protein, thus providing you with all 9 essential amino acids needed by the human body.
With that said, please remember that the nutrient profile of truffles can be different between other types of species. For instance, some studies have revealed that white desert truffles have a higher protein, fiber, and fat profile compared to other types like the black desert species.
Not only do truffles have an impressive nutrient profile, but they also may boast antimicrobial properties. If so, truffles could help to reduce the growth of certain types of bacteria.
One such study revealed that the extract of desert truffles displayed the growth of Staphylococcus aureus of as much as 66%. This bacteria is alone responsible for a variety of illnesses in people.
Likewise, another study examined the extract from the same variety served to reduce the growth of Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This strain of bacteria is typically very resistant to antibiotics.
Still, more research is needed before scientists and researchers can say definitively whether eating truffles is healthy. And if so, we need studies to determine how many truffles need to be consumed to achieve health benefits.
How Do You Store Truffles?
The best place to store truffles is in an airtight container, in your fridge, and on the top shelf. If you want to get the most out of your truffles, place a small piece of cheese in the container. In doing so, you can be sure to get some of the truffle flavor imparted to your cheese.
The key to storing truffles successfully is to keep them dry at all times. Unlike other mushrooms, truffles need to be dry to avoid rotting. When this happens, the lifespan of your truffles will be dramatically reduced.
If you want to keep your truffles for an extended period of time, try freezing them. You can do this the same way as you would store them in your refrigerator.
Simply place them in an airtight container and stick them in the freezer. In doing so, you can look forward to keeping your truffles for as much as 6 months.
Final Thoughts on the Taste of Truffles
A common mistake that consumers make when buying truffle oil is buying products with pieces of truffle in them. While this may look appetizing, it can result in your truffle oil going rancid. What’s more, many truffle oil products you see on the market today are made with synthetic compounds that emulate the smell of real truffle oil.
As such, you aren’t even getting true truffle oil. If you want to ensure that you are getting real truffle oil, it’s best to make your home at home.
As you can see, white truffles, black truffles, and other species of truffles are prized and loved the world over. If you want to significantly improve your diet and recipes, try truffles in place of traditional mushrooms.
From scrambled eggs to pasta dishes, you can look forward to an incredible taste and aroma unlike anything mushrooms can compete with. While it’s true that you will spend more on truffles, you can enjoy a taste like no other in all of your cooking endeavors.