Imagine the fanciest food you can think of. Did your mind immediately drift to something like caviar or lobster? Or did you skip right over these traditionally upscale delicacies and go straight for truffles instead?
Truffles have long been accepted as some of the most expensive delicacies available for consumption, and for good reason! These tasty members of the fungus family add an incredible flavor to just about any dish, and they have a lot of other uses you might not ever have heard of before, too!
Of course, you know truffles are great, and you know they’re prized. Past that, you might not have a lot of information readily available to you when it comes to these mushrooms. That’s what this article is here for! By the time you’ve read through this article, you’ll know everything there is to know about black truffles, from start to finish.
Below, I’ll outline for you the history of truffles, as well as where they come from, how you can grow them yourself, and how you can find them in markets and online. You’ll learn about the price of truffles, as well as how to use them in tons of different ways. Best of all, you’ll be provided with a wealth of knowledge about how to tell when a truffle is really of a good quality or not.
If you’ve ever wanted to educate yourself on black truffles, this is the place to do it. So let’s get started on your tour of truffles!
History of Black Truffles
Before we can get started really discussing the amazing fungus known as the truffle, you’ll first need to understand what a truffle actually is. These plants are a type of mushroom that grows beneath the ground as an opportunistic fungus on the roots of certain types of trees. It takes a long time for a truffle to reach the point at which it can actually be harvested, but when it does, it continues to produce “fruit” every year or so thereafter.
Because the conditions under which truffles grow are so specific, they are considered a highly sought-after delicacy. They have an incredible smell and a delicious flavor, both of which have made them wildly popular among the culinary world. There are several different types of truffle that are commercially available, and some of these are more common than others. For the purposes of this article, we’ll be dealing with the black truffle.
So what is a black truffle? This is commonly regarded as the second most valuable type of truffle, and it’s sometimes hard to come by! It is usually rounded in shape overall, with several smaller, round nodules growing from the central fungus. These can be very small or very large, but the medium-sized truffles are the ones that are most commonly eaten. They can go for high prices, especially when they are harvested carefully and have an excellent aesthetic appeal to go along with their rarity and their flavor. Black truffles grow on hazelnut and oak tree roots, and they are sometimes also called Perigord truffles after the name of the part of France where they often grow. Black truffle season is usually in late fall to early winter.
It’s one thing to understand what a black truffle is, but what’s its history? There has to be some reason why these fungal growths on the roots of trees came to be so immensely popular, right? According to myth, truffles were a gift from heaven that appeared when lightning struck the roots of a certain tree. Ever since ancient times, people have been using them to cook food for nobility and the upper class, and that hasn’t changed very much today.
During the Middle Ages, truffles were considered to be evil because they were too exotic and flavorful. Luckily for the culinary world, they regained favor again during the Renaissance, and they made their way into the modern world of cooking. It’s said that Louis XIV had a lot to do with making truffles known as an affluent cooking ingredient once again. European chefs popularized the use of the black truffle, but unfortunately, after both World Wars, much of the land on which truffles were grown became damaged beyond repair. Because of this, truffles have remained even rarer than they already were.
Today, they can be discovered by people who go truffle hunting, searching for these rare and exquisite specimens of fungus. Truffle hunters use dogs and sometimes pigs to sniff out these tasty gourmet treats.
Where Do Black Truffles Come From?
We’ve already learned a little bit about where black truffles come from, but there’s still a lot more to discover! Before you can completely understand everything there is to know about black truffles, you should educate yourself on their location and how they can be found. Even if you don’t plan on going truffle hunting yourself, you can have a better appreciation for how expensive these delicacies can be when you know where they come from in the first place!
Black truffles are very rare, and they are highly prized and valuable. But where do black truffles grow? As mentioned before, they form on the roots of oak and hazelnut trees in a specific part of France. Although France isn’t the only place where you can find these truffle specimens, it does make up almost half the population of these rare fungi. Spain is the second most common place to find black truffles, followed by Croatia and Italy, although Italy is much more likely to produce the less-rare white truffle instead.
If you’re wondering where to find black truffles outside of Europe, you might have some trouble. Europe is home to the vast majority of black truffle growths in the world, with just a few variations springing up elsewhere. One type of black truffle can be found in Oregon, but it isn’t nearly as highly prized as its much more expensive cousin from around the world.
So where do you find black truffles on the trees themselves? Look close to the ground at the root systems of the right types of trees. You might have to do a little digging to uncover the bulk of the truffle harvest. They’re likely to be buried beneath the dirt, and this is why dogs have recently been trained to sniff them out for their truffle hunting owners.
If you want to know where can you find black truffles that are grown in the United States, you might have to consider doing some work on your own. It’s not impossible to produce truffles yourself, but it is very difficult. Before you can get started, you’ll need to assess your climate. You’ll have to have access to all four seasons. Otherwise you’ll never be able to get any truffles from your trees.
Clear your land, test your soil for a pH of 8 to 8.3, and plant acres of trees at a time for the best possible results. You’ll probably also want to put together some type of irrigation system, so you won’t have to go to all the trouble to water each tree on your own. After that, it’s all about waiting and hoping the conditions are just right for truffles to take hold in the roots of your trees.
When you remember where do black truffles come from in the wild, you’ll understand why they take so much work to grow in a controlled environment! If you plan to try to grow truffles yourself, remember to keep your trees some distance away from any wild growth. This way, other types of fungus won’t take over.
What Does a Black Truffle Taste Like?
One of the most commonly asked questions about these expensive fungi is “what does a black truffle taste like”? This is a pretty reasonable thing to wonder! Unless you’ve always eaten very affluent meals, you’ve probably never had a truffle before in anything. You may have tasted truffle oil, but even then, it’s unlikely that you’ve had the full flavor experience you can expect from enjoying a sliced-off piece of a fresh, straight from the ground truffle. This is an experience that some people only have once or twice in their lives, but rest assure that truffles definitely do taste as amazing as you might expect!
To fully understand what does black truffle taste like, you first need to know what it smells like. As you probably know, smell and taste are strongly linked, and without the aroma of a food, it’s almost impossible to really experience its flavor. The taste of a black truffle comes from its pungent aroma, which in turn comes from the spores it gives off when it is harvested. In order for a truffle to smell the right way, it has to be harvested at exactly the right time. It must be picked at the peak of its maturity, or it simply won’t taste like anything at all. Pigs and dogs are great at finding truffles because their smell gets so strong when they’re ready to be eaten.
When eaten on their own, black truffles have a flavor that isn’t unlike nuts. This is probably because they grow, at least in some instances, on the roots of the hazelnut tree, but that doesn’t necessarily dictate the flavor of this fungus. Since it grows in the earth and it gets its nutrients from trees, it almost goes without saying that the black truffle has a very hearty, earthy flavor. It tastes something like corn, and a little bit like nuts, and some people have even likened it to the smell of dirt after the rain.
But what do black truffles taste like when they’re added to food? Adding truffles to a meal can deeply enrich the overall taste of the dish. If you’ve ever had a plate of pasta, for example, with a mushroom cream sauce on top, you might understand a little bit about what mushrooms can do to a savory entrée. Truffles, however, add complex layers of nutty and almost mineral-like flavors to the foods they’re cooked with, which can enhance the tastes that are already present and add a sort of delicious musky flavor on top.
If you have a chance to try some truffle oil, this can give you a little hint of what a real truffle tastes like. Remember, however, that truffle oil isn’t the only indication of truffle flavor. It might come from truffles, but it isn’t the same thing as biting into a true piece of black truffle. Most truffle oil, too, doesn’t come from the exquisite black truffles that we’re discussing here. The flavor difference is notable, but again, truffle oil does have its own merits in cooking!
What Does a Black Truffle Cost?
After considering the flavor of a black truffle, the second most common question on everyone’s mind is usually “how much do black truffles cost”? The price of black truffles on the market changes just about every year, but for the most part, they never quite top the value of the white truffle, which is the rarest form of truffle available.
When you want to find out how much are black truffles worth, it’s important to be sure your information is pretty current. As of 2016, the price of black truffles run around $95 per ounce, meaning that if you’re trying to work out how much are black truffles per pound, you’re probably looking at over $1500 for your grand total. A pound of black truffles can get really expensive, really fast, but remember that white truffles cost even more!
If you’re really interested in trying out black truffles, you can buy them online and cut down on some of the cost. Remember that going out and finding your own truffles, even if you have a chance to visit the right parts of Europe at the right times of the year, is not legal. You can’t bring the truffles back home with you, and you’re not really supposed to pick them in the first place! If you’re worried about how much does a black truffle cost in stores, buy them online and save on your purchase.
You can get some discounts on black truffles when you find them in online stores, but remember that price does have some correlation with quality. You know how much is a pound of black truffles, so you also know that if you come across a pound for half the price it normally goes for, then you’re probably not getting a good quality truffle. For example, you can find some great fresh black truffle specimens on Amazon, but be careful to read the reviews! Just because the price is right doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting something you’ll enjoy eating. You don’t want your first truffle experience to be a bad one!
You may be better off choosing your truffles from a reputable dealer online that understands how much is a black truffle and knows better than to try to sell a lower-quality product for an undercut price. Some online stores, such as Marky’s, have really made a name for themselves when it comes to selling high-quality products at reasonable prices. Black truffles available from Marky’s are priced according to the season in which they were harvested.
Remember that, when you’re considering how much are black truffles on the market today, it depends a lot on the time of year and the place they’ve come from. Again, take Marky’s for example. Their summer truffles are still fresh, and they’ve still come from France, but they cost a fraction of the price of their winter-harvested counterparts. Of course, this is partly because winter truffles have a much more incredible flavor, so you’ll have to decide whether or not you want to spend $16 an ounce on a summer truffle or wait to see how much it costs in the winter!
How to Tell the Quality of a Truffle
Not all truffles are the same, and even some specimens that come from the same host plant might not be the same quality. Unfortunately, in today’s market, the expensive black truffles known as Perigord truffles are sometimes replaced with much less sought-after Chinese truffles instead, which may look the same but definitely don’t taste the same. When you’re shopping for truffles, you need to understand how to tell the difference between a poor quality truffle and a nice one. The more you know about truffle grading, the easier you’ll be able to make the right choice for your flavor experience!
- Smell your truffle. Does it smell like ammonia? If so, this means it’s going bad, or it may have already rotted on the inside. Does it not smell like anything at all? In this case, your truffle may have been harvested too early, and it might not have developed its rich flavor profile. You’re looking for a smell that reminds you of mushrooms, wine, cheese, or even chocolate. You might also notice the smell of nuts or even of mud in a healthy, quality truffle.
- Hold your truffle. Does it seem surprisingly heavy? This means you’ve got a nice quality truffle on your hands! If your truffle seems too light for its size, it’s probably beginning to dry out in the middle. This means it’s been for sale for too long.
- Squeeze your truffle. Is it firm? A quality truffle should have very little give when you squeeze it. If it seems a little soft or has spots where you can press in your fingers more easily than others, this means it’s beginning to rot. It’s okay if your truffle has natural holes or sunken places but check carefully to be sure it hasn’t been filled with anything to add to the weight (and thus, to the price).
- Look at your truffle. Is it discolored on the outside? Discoloration on the outside means there’s probably something going on inside the truffle itself. It may be decaying, or it might have already been exposed to some frost or too much moisture somewhere along the way. Note that truffles sold in local shops are usually unwashed (like most mushrooms), and you will need to wash and clean your truffle at home in order to examine it fully.
- If you’re ever worried about the quality of a truffle in a local store, you can ask the vendor to scratch or score it for you. This way, you can get a look at the inside of the truffle without having to damage it too much.
- It may go without saying, but if your truffle isn’t completely round and looks as though it’s had pieces sliced off, you aren’t buying a quality truffle!
Of course, you understand how to grow black truffles and you know what goes into the process of harvesting them and hunting for them. Now that you also know how to tell which ones are high quality and which ones might need to be passed over, you’re finally ready to learn all about how you can use them!
What are Black Truffles Used For?
You probably know already that black truffles are featured in plenty of upscale dishes and are sometimes even served simply sliced or grated on their own, but did you know that there are tons of other ways they are used on a regular basis? If you’re looking for information on how to cook black truffles or other ways that these mushrooms are often used, you’ve come to the right place!
Black truffles have been recently incorporated into skin care products for wealthy buyers who are looking for new ways to make themselves look younger. Both black and white truffles have made their way into lotions and makeup, and they are known for providing a luxurious way to fight off wrinkles and other signs of aging.
Of course, in the end, cooking is still the best way to make use of your black truffles. Check out the recipes listed below to find out some new and exciting tips for how to cook with black truffles, and to try your hand at some of the most delicious recipes utilizing this amazing ingredient.
1. Truffle Risotto
Try this truffle risotto for an easy way to make the most of your truffles.
- 1 cup onion, minced
- 2 oz olive oil
- 1 minced clove of garlic
- 1 cup white wine
- 2 cups Arborio rice
- 2 oz black truffles
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 4 tbsp butter
- ¼ cup chopped parsley leaves, fresh
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat until shimmering.
2. Add garlic and onions; cook for 3 minutes.
3. Add rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
4. Add all liquids 1/3 of the total at a time. After each third, stir until absorbed by the rice.
5. Remove from heat.
6. Stir in butter, parsley, and Parmesan until combined.
7. Serve topped with truffles.
2. Truffle Eggs
This easy truffle scrambled egg recipe will make your brunch really pop.
- 3 organic eggs
- ½ ounce of butter
- Handful of fresh chives, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp truffle or more, to taste
1. In a small skillet over medium heat, melt butter.
2. While butter is melting, lightly beat eggs together with salt, pepper, and chives.
3. Pour eggs into pan and let cook until slightly set.
4. Push in edges with a spatula and let the rest of the egg cook until set.
5. Serve topped with truffle scattered over the egg.
3. Truffle Custard
Although this recipe only has a few ingredients, it’s a more complicated and intricate dish that’s great for a unique dessert option.
- 3 tbsp white sugar
- ½ ounce fresh truffle
- 4 separated egg yolks
- 6 tbsp Madeira wine
1. Using a mortar and pestle, mash truffle into paste.
2. Pound in sugar until truffle paste is fully combined.
3. Set up a double boiler using a stainless steel bowl and a small saucepan over low heat.
4. Combine truffle mixture with egg yolks in the double boiler.
5. Whisk mixture for four minutes or until creamy and yellow.
6. Add wine and beat well until very thick.
7. Serve immediately.
Now that you know what to do with black truffles, you can find out where to purchase them to bring them into your home. Read on to find out about the best places to pick up some black truffles online, if you don’t have any kind of a local supplier for this rare ingredient.
Best Black Truffle Brands
- Are you ready to buy some truffles? Of course you are! But be careful before you rush off and purchase a truffle from the first place you come across. If you’re shopping online, it’s a good idea to remember which stores have been known to provide high-quality truffles with excellent customer service. Check out this list of four good stores to help you get started.
- Earthy Delights – Earthy Delights offers tons of delicious seasonal foods to buyers in the United States. They source their truffles and other food items from quality providers, so you know you’re always going to have access to some of the best ingredients around. You can choose frozen truffles if you prefer to save a little money, but they always have fresh, seasonal truffles in stock, depending on what’s available at the time. If black truffles aren’t available when you check, try again in the fall or winter.
- Gourmet Foodstore – This is another excellent online store where you can pick up truffles shipped directly from European providers to the store, and then straight from the store to you. This vendor offers a lot of other unique and gourmet types of food and ingredients, and they always only offer truffles that are fresh and in season. Black summer truffles are available from Italy during the summer months, but again, if you’re looking for a quality winter black truffle, you’ll need to wait for the right time of year to find it here.
- Urbani – Although Urbani doesn’t have a wide selection of truffles, everything they do offer is always fresh and in season. You also have the option to pick up a few varieties of flash-frozen truffles from Urbani, but since they offer fresh alternatives, it’s better to go this route if you can afford the extra cost. If you don’t have truffle serving equipment on hand, you can always buy it from this online store as well. During the fall and winter months, you can find winter black truffles in abundance here. During the summer, you can find summer black truffles for a much lower cost. This store sells a four-ounce package of summer truffles for around $95.
But which one of these online stores is the best place to get your truffles? We recommend Earthy Delights for our number one pick. This store has a lot of excellent feedback and customer service that’s ready to help you at a moment’s notice. If you ever have a problem with the truffles you order from this store, you’ll be able to resolve the issue in no time, but you probably won’t have trouble in the first place!
You’ve come a long way from the start of this article—congratulations! You’ve learned a lot about truffles, and you’re bound to know more about black truffles now than you ever thought possible. You’ve learned where you can find black truffles, and you’ve read up on the complicated process that goes into growing, finding, and harvesting them as well. You should have a better understanding of what makes them cost so much, and how much you can expect to pay when you shop for black truffles online or in a local store.
So now, all that’s left to do is pick up a package of fresh black truffles from your favorite store and see what you can do with them! Try out some of the recipes that were listed for you above, or see if you can come up with your own unique spin on the black truffle. You never know what unique new flavor combination you might discover if you get creative with truffles in your cooking. Of course, you can always stick to tried and true favorites and enjoy the taste of black truffle in a perfectly balanced dish, too!
Where will your journey toward getting to know the black truffle take you next? You’ve just gotten started on the path of understanding how to cook with and utilize these incredible, rare fungi. It’s no telling what you can discover when you keep learning about black truffles, so don’t be afraid to explore even further into the world of these great delicacies!