Truffles



I'm not a foodie, but took notice after watching an episode of Leverage called The French Connection Job.

At 13:18 I learned about the value of French Truffles.




Truffles - The most expensive food in the world




A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the genus Tuber. French gourmand Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called truffles "the diamond of the kitchen". Edible truffles are held in high esteem in Middle Eastern, French, Spanish, Italian, and Greece.

The first mention of truffles appears in the inscriptions of the neo-Sumerians regarding their Amorite enemy's eating habits (Third Dynasty of Ur, 20th century BC) and later in writings of Theophrastus in the fourth century BC. In classical times, their origins were a mystery that challenged many; Plutarch and others thought them to be the result of lightning, warmth and water in the soil, while Juvenal thought thunder and rain to be instrumental in their origin. Cicero deemed them children of the earth, while Dioscorides thought they were tuberous roots.

Looking for truffles in open ground is almost always carried out with specially trained pigs (truffle hogs) or, more recently, dogs. The Lagotto Romagnolo is currently the only dog breed recognized for sniffing out truffles (although virtually any breed could be trained for this purpose).

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French Connections

France Is Fighting for Its Fungi   Smithsonian - March 23, 2014
With rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns threatening truffle supplies of France and Italy, Chinese truffles are moving in. The French government has committed $280,000 annually for the next seven years to the truffle industry, and is having scientists look into whether European truffles can be distinguished from imports by smell.

France Rallies Around Its Truffles   New York Times - March 18, 2014
As the world of French truffles falls into disarray, let's hear it for the poor man's truffle of Bourgogne. Inexpensive truffles from China, odorless and tasteless, are flooding France. Synthetically flavored truffle oil is turning up in more restaurant creations. And the supply of the royal black Perigord truffle, the black diamond of French cuisine, is shrinking.

France's truffle farmers aim to stop inferior Chinese fungi getting a sniff   The Guardian - January 31, 2014
France's annual truffle production has plummeted in recent years from 1,600 tons to about 40 tons, largely due to tree clearance.




Chinese Connections

The Invasion of the Chinese Truffle   New York Times - February 1995
The prized, richly fragrant black truffles of France have been called black diamonds. But for some swanky dishes this season, zircons may be more like it. Another, cheaper kind of black truffle, the tuber himalayensis from China, has been flooding the market. This influx has created a problem because unscrupulous dealers in France have been mixing the two and selling them all as French truffles, tuber melanosporum, to restaurants. Dealers in the United States have been doing the same. Although the two types look the same, the Chinese truffles, when cut, are likely to be blacker, with less veining. They tend to have a chemical odor and very little flavor. Good French black truffles have an intense, slightly musky fragrance, with a hint of sweetness, and a rich, earthy flavor. They are as much as four times the price of the Chinese ones.





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