Truffle is an underground tuberous body that belongs to the genus of marsupial mushrooms. They grow in small groups of 3-7 mushrooms and have a fleshy structure and an unsightly appearance, behind which hides an exclusive taste. It is believed that having tasted a truffle once, its aroma will be imprinted in the memory for a lifetime.
What Does a Truffle Smell and Taste Like?
What do truffles taste and smell like? Truffles taste and smell like roasted seeds or walnuts and have a pleasant aftertaste. A real white truffle is extremely aromatic and smells like cheese with garlic. The taste of the truffle is so original and bright that even frequent consumers find it difficult to describe. True gourmets eat raw truffles or limit cooking to minimal heat treatment, which allows maximizing the uniqueness of taste and delicious aroma of the truffle.
Are all truffles edible? Not all truffles are edible. The most valuable are French black, or Perigord, and white Piedmont truffles. Italy is one of the world’s leading producers of such a valuable delicacy. Two types of truffles are popular in Italy —white, which is a rarer type, and black.
This type of truffle is considered rarer and therefore more valuable. The main places in Italy where the white truffle is mined are the Piedmont regions, especially the small area of the provinces of Torino and Alba, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, the Marche, Molise, and Abruzzo.
Compared to white, black truffle is considered more common in Italy. Most of all, this species is mined in Umbria and Molise, this also applies to the “summer” black truffle and the more valuable fruit of the “winter” period. Not so long ago, this valuable delicacy began to be mined in such regions of Italy as Campania, Sicily, Calabria, and Basilicata.
How can you tell if a truffle is edible? Edible truffles are slightly bigger than a nut, but some can be bigger than a large potato tuber and weigh more than 1 kilogram. The outer layer (peridium) can have a smooth surface or numerous cracks, and it can also be covered with characteristic multifaceted warts. The color of the truffle pulp depends on the type of truffle: it can be white, black, chocolate, grey.
The cross-section of the mushroom has a distinct marble texture. It is formed by the alternation of light “internal veins” and “external veins” of a darker shade, on which spore bags of various shapes are located. You should not collect mushrooms if you do not know what edible truffles should look like.
Many people, who have tasted truffles, note that the fruiting body has a strong odor, reminiscent of algae. Truffles are harvested at night, due to the increase in their aromatic properties in cool air. To harvest truffles, dogs and pigs are used, which can easily catch the elite smell of mushrooms.
It’s believed that some of the distinctive aroma comes from a molecule called androstenone, a hormone that is also produced by male pigs and whose presence in truffles is said to be the reason that pigs make fine truffle hunters. [BBC.com]
People react to truffles in very different ways. And scientists are getting closer to solving the mystery of why this is happening. Nearly 25% of the population does not smell androstenone, a substance that contributes to the trademark musky scent of truffle. Another 40% of people are extremely sensitive to androstenone: they say that it smells like rotten wood or sweat. The rest of the population likes its smell.
Does truffle smell bad? Truffle may smell bad (like dirty socks, rotten wood, or sweat) for people who are sensitive to a molecule called androstenone. Androsterone gives this musky aroma to the truffle that may repel some people and make them think that the truffle smells bad. However, truffles have a large number of fans all around the world. This proves that truffles are tasty and smell good.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley are trying to establish whether the different levels of perception of androstenone are associated with the individual characteristics of the noses or with the way the brain processes aroma signals, notes Berkeley scientist Noar Sobel.
Other substances are also involved in the formation of the peculiar aroma of truffles, but the reaction of people to this mushroom seems to reflect the reaction of people to androstenone. “If there were no androstenone in the truffles, there would be no mystery,” says Avery Gilbert, a consultant to the perfume industry.
All of this makes the white truffle season, which begins in late September and lasts eight weeks, a tough time for the chefs. Mark Elba, a chef at Food Studio in Atlanta, says he has heard everything from complaints that truffles stink to exclamations “to try truffles and die!” because there is nothing else that’s left to experience after smelling and tasting truffles.
It may seem strange, but there are almost no truffle-haters among chefs and kitchen workers. Scientist Tim Jacob and colleagues at Cardiff University in Wales last year published a report on a study in which people inhaled androstenone in amounts roughly equal to that in truffles, three times a day. By the end of the week, people who had not previously distinguished any odor were beginning to smell “a honey-straw-earthy, pretty sweet scent,” Jacob says. Restaurant employees may come across truffles often enough to smell and enjoy them.
Why Are Truffles So Special?
What is so special about truffles? Truffles are special not only because of their aroma and taste but also because of their useful properties. Truffles contain vitamins PP, B1, B2, C. Truffles will be beneficial for people suffering from immune deficiency and impaired intestinal microflora. Riboflavin in truffles helps to cure gastritis, nervous system disorders, chronic colitis, and skin diseases. The undoubted benefit of truffles lies in their ability to increase immunity.
Not so long ago, scientists proved that truffles are good for delaying skin aging. Cosmetologists are already producing a line of creams based on truffles to prevent wrinkles. Like most mushrooms, the calorie content is low and is just 24 kcal per 100 g. The truffle goes well with various products due to its bright taste.
How can you tell if it’s a truffle? What does a truffle look like in the wild? The surface of a truffle is black with a blue or brown tint, is smooth, cracked, or covered with small bumps. On the cut, the color of the truffle resembles marble due to the presence of many mixed light and dark veins. Young truffles are distinguished by elastic white flesh with a yellowish or grayish tint, old ones — with brownish brown flesh, and an increased number of white veins.
Truffles are very capricious to environmental conditions. Truffles grow in the mixed forests with a predominance of oaks and beeches, which must be at least 15 years old. Truffles grow in soft, rich in minerals soil. The climate should be warm, humid, with abundant rainfall. At the same time, the truffle grows underground, at a depth of 10–30 cm. Therefore, its reproduction depends on wild animals, which, eating it, spread spores.