Recently, the world’s largest white truffle sold at an auction for $61,250. It was 4.16 pound. You might think that that was expensive, but it was actually a bargain price. It would have sold for more if not for the abundant rain in Italy that forced the prices of truffles to drop by 50 percent.
What Makes Truffles So Pricey?
Truffles are quite rare, and they are sought after. This makes them the most expensive food in the entire world. Curiously, truffles offer a unique taste. So, you could either love them or hate them.
Truffles can be a tad more expensive in one region than in others but not significantly pricey. The price of truffles varies depending on supply and demand. Demand grows every year, but unfortunately, supply remains constant. Not surprisingly, prices have increased over the years. Prices vary as well depending on the season. Rainy season creates more spores and more truffles. This lowers the price of truffles.
The best kinds of truffles are wild. They are a natural product. They cannot be cultivated or controlled. The best ones are hunted by pigs or trained dogs. These are the ones that are desired by the best restaurants and chefs in the world.
The unpredictability of weather and supply contributes to the extreme prices. Although there is a modest success to cultivating truffles, the amount of truffles created is not enough to meet the demand. The crop has been insubstantial. Demands are rarely fully met.
Urbani, a truffle producer in Italy, works with over 18,000 people to scour for truffles all over the country. A single person may find a small amount – two ounces, a quarter, or a pound. So, they need thousands of people to hunt for truffles all over the country. Unfortunately, the more employees the company hires, the higher their expense and ultimately, the higher price of the truffle.
Truffle suppliers need people to do the hunting, and they also need pigs and dogs to help with the hunt. Female pigs were the first seekers. Truffles smell like testosterone to them so that they can find the truffles easily. Unfortunately, once they find the truffles, the pigs don’t want to give them back. So, farmers were forced to trained dogs to look for these underground mushrooms.
Once truffles are dug, they immediately start to lose water. So, no expense is spared to get the truffles to the buyers as soon as possible. Truffles are usually distributed to restaurants within 36 hours after they’re dug.
But wait – what are truffles, anyway?
What is a Truffle?
It is a type of fungus that grows on the roots of some trees. The word “truffle” comes from the Latin word “tuber” which means swelling. Truffles are indeed a part of the tuber family. They grow underground. They are categorized as mushrooms. You can say that they are “underground mushrooms.”
Are they mushrooms?
Scientifically, mushrooms and truffles are both classified as fungi. However, mushrooms grow above ground, but truffles grow underground on roots of oaks, hazelnuts, or other host trees.
The main types of sought-after truffles are white truffles, black winter truffles, and black summer truffles. Where do they grow?
There are over 1600 species of truffles in the world. Most species can be found on all continents except Antarctica. Seven of those species are quite edible. The most sought-after are the White Alba Truffle and the Black Perigord Truffle. These are native only to southern Europe.
Nowadays, black truffles are farmed in countries like Australia and the United States. Albeit cultivated, these farmed truffles are reaching higher standards in quality, taste, and size. Dr. Paul Thomas of the American Truffle Company is getting closer to growing a white truffle in the country.
Do Truffles Differ From One Country to Another?
They do. Truffles are called different names: truffas, tartufi, truffe, faggah, and tubers.Besides their various names and species, indigenous truffles also vary from one valley to another. The climate and soil affect their size and taste. You can liken this to how the taste of grapes varies as well.
What do truffles taste like?
It is actually difficult to describe the taste of truffle. Even experts find it hard to give a good description. It is unique, so people either love it or hate it. You can only know by trying it out yourself – and the best ones to try are the fresh and wild truffles from Italy or France.