We have outlined the most frequently asked questions below.
How do you Describe a Truffle
Truffles are a fungus and grow under the ground as a result of a symbiotic relationship with the roots of particular trees (such as oaks and hazelnuts) infected with the appropriate mycorrhiza (literally, fungus root). While they were originally were confined to the wild, the past century has seen considerable research, particularly in France, into developing the capability of cultivating them as a domestic crop.
Truffles form in late summer and slowly mature during autumn and are ready to harvest in winter. They can be found breaking the surface of the ground or down to 200 millimeters deep and are best located by a trained dog, from the aroma they emit when ripening. The truffle then has to be assessed by a trained human nose to determine whether it is truly ‘ripe’ or should be left in the ground for another few days or a week before being harvested.
What Does a Truffle Taste Like?
Like many exotic flavours, it is an acquired taste.
The aroma of Tuber melanosporum is musty and sweet, a very intense mushroom smell overlaid with other notes, especially what wine tasters call ‘forest floor’. It cooperates with the flavours in food enhancing and intensifying them. A steak with truffle sauce becomes more meaty, eggs are transformed into a gourmet item, and every aspect of the meal becomes more satisfying.
For chefs, the challenge of including fresh truffle in their menu can be daunting with the price of the truffle, the limited shelf life and the uncertainty over the likely response from their customers to this new and exciting addition to Australian cuisine. To assist, we have prepared a simple guide on storing and using truffles for anyone wanting to include truffle as part of their seasonal culinary treat.
Remember that Australia does not have a culture of truffle, as part of the cuisine, and the best way to introduce it to new customers is fresh and highly visible, where they can see the truffle and savour the aroma and taste, in Italy on simple dishes.
Truffles continue to be somewhat of a mystery even after more than 3000 years of consumption. The ancient Greeks loved them and they were prized by the Romans. Theophrasus, a disciple of Plato and Aristotle wrote about them as did Pliny, the scribe who documented the destruction of Pompei.
Alexander Dumas in his Grand Dictionnaire de Cuisine wrote:
"The most learned of men have been questioned as to the nature of this tuber and, after two thousand years of argument and discussion, their answer is the same as it was on the first day: we do not know. The truffles themselves have been interrogated and have answered simply: eat us and praise the Lord”
What Does a Truffle Smell Like?
The aroma of the truffle has defied explanation, but then it is very hard to describe the aroma of garlic and other exotic spices.
Open the spice cupboard and take a deep sniff. Crush an unpeeled clove of garlic. Find some damp leaves and dig your fingers into the earth underneath (oak leaves are best). Then go for something floral - lilies for penetration, roses for sweetness.