You love them or hate them; truffles. I'm a big fan myself! Did you know there are over 300 varieties of truffles? The problem is that they are very expensive. This has a number of different reasons. As creative as humans are, all sorts of flavorings and alternatives have been found to mimic the taste of truffles and offer them so cheaply. But how good is this really? Can't truffles be culitvated? And can you find truffles in your own backyard? I've looked it up!
What are truffles and what varieties are there?
- The black summer truffle - Tuber Aestivum Vitt
- The black autumn truffle - Tuber Uncinatum Vitt
- The black winter truffle - Tuber Melanosporum Vitt
- The white Alba truffle - Tuber magnatum Pico
- The white bianchetti truffle - Tuber Albidum Pico
Cultivation of truffles
One of the reasons why truffles are still so expensive is because they are one of the few products that are still a truly wild natural product. Truffles are difficult to grow and cultivate. This gives the product its charm but also makes it very expensive.
The truffle grows in symbiosis with its host. These are the roots of oaks, hazels, poplars or hornbeams. Among other trees, the truffles do not occur. The truffle takes good care of the tree and allows it to extract additional food from the soil. However, the truffle does exterminate the other plants in it's environment. This is also known as a brûlé. This area can be as large as 24 meters!
With this knowledge, there is a lot of experimentation in growing truffles. The fungus is injected into saplings and then it is a matter of waiting. It can take up to 8 years before harvesting can begin. Then there is also the problem that it is very uncertain how many truffles you will get. Everything happens underground and this process cannot be disturbed. Of course there is still a lot of development going on to eventually make it a controlled cultivation process, which will have a great influence on the price of the truffle.
When you go to the supermarket you see all kinds of products with truffle in them such as truffle oil, truffle mayonnaise, truffle paste, truffle sauce, truffle chips, pre-made truffle soup, and so on. These products can be purchased for a few bucks. Despite the fact that the taste may be there, there is hardly any real truffle in it. Otherwise it wouldn't have cost only a few bucks either.
The taste of truffles is added synthetically. This is especially the case with truffle oil. Producers often do not want to say what is put into the oil to give the taste, but it is certainly not something natural. It is known that a byproduct from the oil industry is used to mimic the taste. Even with the more expensive truffle oils, there is a good chance that no real truffles are used.
Other products use minimal amounts of truffle. For example, products are litterally sold with 0.1% truffle so that the name may appear on the label. Then flavor enhancers, aromas and black bits are added to give the idea that you are eating real truffle.
Of course, the real natural product is always better for you but in the case of truffles this is not affordable for everyone. These products are a solution so you can still enjoy the truffle taste from time to time. But it is good to know that they are not real truffles and it is something produced.
Truffles are available year-round. However, there is a big difference in the quality of truffles throughout the year. The black summer truffle, for example, is less developed in its taste. These are also a lot cheaper than the other varieties. You often see these truffles used for preservation. The best truffles come from the European winter season. Below is a nice overview of availability!