Truffles of course! Not the chocolate ones.. the other ones! What are truffles? They are mushrooms. So what is the basic difference between them and other mushrooms? What makes them so special?
The basic difference is that truffles develop under the earth instead of on its surface. They actually grow 15-20 cm deep inside the earth. This is the most important difficulty one comes across when trying to locate them – since, as you know, we cannot see inside of the soil! This is why specially trained dogs or pigs are used to find them with their keen sense of smell. They can smell them even so deep under the soil.
Like all mushrooms, truffles also belong to the fungi kingdom. This kingdom is one of the 6 which all organisms are found in. In other words, what you eat, in both cases, is simply an organ… a part of the fungus that you can see, which is developed so that it is easier for it to disperse its seeds. In addition to these organs, a mycelium is also found everywhere in the soil, a type of fungal colony that is invisible to the eye. Imagine, if you were to get 1teaspoon of soil from the forest, it would contain about 100 meters of mycelium.
Neither mushrooms nor truffles can make their own food so they need to cooperate with the roots of plants in order to get their food. Truffles are very picky though, so they don’t cooperate with all plants. This cooperation is called mycorrhizal symbiosis. The roots are the ones that offer nutrients to the fungi, while at the same time the fungi transfer moisture and inorganic nutrients to the plant’s roots. It is something that benefits both of them.
While the fungus grows and reaches maturity, the mycelium creates a fruiting body – which we all know as truffles! They have a wonderful aroma and they are what dogs look for under the soil. Of course there are many varieties of truffles. In Greece, 4 varieties of truffles have been found, according to season and to their color.
Truffles are the most expensive mushrooms of all and the most delicious. In Greece, they are not widely known, even though a bottle of truffle oil may be found forgotten on some shelf in the kitchen. Of course these types of oils are usually not very good quality and if you have tried them you may think that truffles don’t really taste very good.
This is why it is important to try the real ingredient. The raw material. I know it is not easy to get these mushrooms both because they are not easy to find and secondly because they are not cheap! But if such a wonderful mushroom happens to fall into your hands it would be good to know what you can do with it… I am suggesting two easy recipes so you can get a feel and taste of it. I hope at some point you get to discover their very unique taste.