Valuable tubers once were once considered the food of the gods and witches, and today most of them end up in exclusive gourmand specialties meant for „regular mortals“.
Truffles are a variety of edible mushroom which grows under the ground, usually next to the roots of oak, beech, poplar, willow and elm trees. They look like a bulb and are often visually compared to potatoes. Truffles usually sprout to the size of a cherry or an apple, but sometimes much bigger samples can be found (such as the famous Zigante Millennium with 1310g). In a culinary sense there are two most popular varieties of truffles: black and white truffle.
Truffles grow all around Europe, North and South America, but most significant are the findings in France and Italy. The most famous truffle habitat in Croatia is the valley of Mirna river in Istria.
Truffles are picked only when they are ripe and fully grown. Truffle search, or so-called “hunt” is led by a truffle expert, while the truffles are located by trained dogs. It used to be pigs, but now they are rarely used in that sense. Although pigs are also great in finding truffles, they usually eat whatever they manage to find.
After the dog starts indicates the location of the truffle, he gets a reward, and the truffle picker carefully takes out the truffle from the ground. Then the hole is closed with soil to enable new truffles to grow again. Truffles are then cleaned, sorted and ranked, taking into consideration the smell, size, shape and overall impression. During the evaluation, a truffle can also be sliced for judges to be able to see the inside of the mushroom. Sorted and cleaned, truffles are then packed for transport.
Truffles can also be described as the gourmand mushrooms because of that tart, intensive and earthy fragrance which provides food with unique flavor. They are mostly used in small quantities because only a little bit of truffles is enough to turn every meal into a true gourmand experience. Truffle aromas are hard to describe, so associations vary from “forest fruits” to “mixture of chocolate and earth” and “old socks”, but they are also given erotic epithets.
Regardless of the comments, truffle demand is always more than a couple of times greater than supply and that is the reason why price of truffles can go up to unbelievable 2000 EUR per kilo.