Yes, pigs really do hunt truffles. Yes, they really can cost US$50 each. And yes, they are worth it. French connoisseur Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin dubbed the rough, clumpy little tuber the “diamond of the kitchen”, and foodies since antiquity have struggled to cultivate enough of them. Although in modern times truffles have become easier to grow and harvest, they remain a true culinary delicacy with gourmet chefs (and ambitious blog readers!) around the world vying for the finest specimens to use in their kitchens. Of course, truffles don’t come cheap and you might wonder how a few small shavings could be worth so much dosh. But the truth is, there really is no flavour like the truffle – a truly essential tasting experience for any foodie.
What is a truffle?
Truffles are the fruit of certain types of fungi that flourish in rocky soil among the roots of certain trees, particularly oaks. Many orchards of oak have been planted specifically to entice truffle growth. Fortunately for Asian readers, China is the world’s top truffle producer at 5 million tonnes per year, followed by Italy and the United States. Depending on its weight, a single, fresh truffle can go for between US$30 and US$75. This ginormous black truffle
found in Australia went for as much as US$2500. We use “found” instead of “grown” because even in the most fruitful forests, truffles – like diamonds – must be hunted rather than merely harvested. And, yes, truffle-hunting pigs are a real thing: truffles produce a compound similar to a sex hormone found in male pigs, and female pigs naturally seek out, dig up and (unless watched closely or muzzled) eat truffles. Dogs, too, can be trained to seek out these pungent-smelling delicacies, which raises the question…
What do truffles taste like and how are they eaten?
“Pungent”, “musky” and “earthy” are some of the most popular truffle descriptors. No mat