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Truffles 101

What is a truffle?
Truffles are the fruiting bodies (spore-bearing mechanisms) of underground mushrooms. The actual fungus from which the truffles grow are formed by an underground network of mycelium in a symbiotic relationship with a host plant. This mutually beneficial arrangement occurs when the fungal mycelium and the root cells of the plant grow together to create mycorrhizae. The plant provides sugars to the fungus through photosynthesis, and the fungus provides the plant with minerals, water, and other nutrients from the soil that it could not get by itself.


Why do truffles smell?

Unlike mushrooms above ground, truffles rely entirely on animals to eat them as a means of spore dispersal. And how do they do that exactly? Well, by smelling good of course! As truffles mature they develop odors and send of gasses and pheromones that signal to the surrounding wildlife that there is something tasty hidden under the soil. We like to eat them for the same reasons a chipmunk might.

Are there many types of truffles?
Yes. There are many species of truffles, however, only a handful are of culinary value and taste very good.

Where do truffles grow?

Truffles are found all over the world and are usually associated with certain families of trees such as Pine, Oak, and Willow; although almost any tree can form mycorrhizae with truffle forming fungi. Depending on the variety of truffle they can be found popping through the soil or up to 12 inches underground.

Truffles 101

What is a truffle?
Truffles are the fruiting bodies (spore-bearing mechanisms) of underground mushrooms. The actual fungus from which the truffles grow are formed by an underground network of mycelium in a symbiotic relationship with a host plant. This mutually beneficial arrangement occurs when the fungal mycelium and the root cells of the plant grow together to create mycorrhizae. The plant provides sugars to the fungus through photosynthesis, and the fungus provides the plant with minerals, water, and other nutrients from the soil that it could not get by itself.


Why do truffles smell?

Unlike mushrooms above ground, truffles rely entirely on animals to eat them as a means of spore dispersal. And how do they do that exactly? Well, by smelling good of course! As truffles mature they develop odors and send of gasses and pheromones that signal to the surrounding wildlife that there is something tasty hidden under the soil. We like to eat them for the same reasons a chipmunk might.


Are there many types of truffles?

Yes. There are many species of truffles, however, only a handful are of culinary value and taste very good.

Where do truffles grow?

Truffles are found all over the world and are usually associated with certain families of trees such as Pine, Oak, and Willow; although almost any tree can form mycorrhizae with truffle forming fungi. Depending on the variety of truffle they can be found popping through the soil or up to 12 inches underground. The most famous varieties of truffle are from southern Europe, although China also exports many truffles. In Washington and Oregon they are usually found on Oak and Douglas Fir trees. (See truffle varieties)

What is truffle oil?

Truffle oil traditionally is made from submerging truffles in olive oil- the oil will taste different depending on the variety of truffle used, and the variety of olive oil, or grape seed oil used. Doing this draws the essence of the truffles out and into the oil. Truffle oil should ideally be refrigerated to maintain its flavor. Some who sell truffle oil actually do not use truffles at all and instead inject a chemical compound (2,4-dithiapentane) into the oil to produce a similar one dimensional flavor at reduced cost.

Truffles 101

What is a truffle?
Truffles are the fruiting bodies (spore-bearing mechanisms) of underground mushrooms. The actual fungus from which the truffles grow are formed by an underground network of mycelium in a symbiotic relationship with a host plant. This mutually beneficial arrangement occurs when the fungal mycelium and the root cells of the plant grow together to create mycorrhizae. The plant provides sugars to the fungus through photosynthesis, and the fungus provides the plant with minerals, water, and other nutrients from the soil that it could not get by itself.


Why do truffles smell?

Unlike mushrooms above ground, truffles rely entirely on animals to eat them as a means of spore dispersal. And how do they do that exactly? Well, by smelling good of course! As truffles mature they develop odors and send of gasses and pheromones that signal to the surrounding wildlife that there is something tasty hidden under the soil. We like to eat them for the same reasons a chipmunk might.


Are there many types of truffles?

Yes. There are many species of truffles, however, only a handful are of culinary value and taste very good.

Where do truffles grow?

Truffles are found all over the world and are usually associated with certain families of trees such as Pine, Oak, and Willow; although almost any tree can form mycorrhizae with truffle forming fungi. Depending on the variety of truffle they can be found popping through the soil or up to 12 inches underground.

The most famous varieties of truffle are from southern Europe, although China also exports many truffles. In Washington and Oregon they are usually found on Oak and Douglas Fir trees. (See truffle varieties)

What is truffle oil?

Truffle oil traditionally is made from submerging truffles in olive oil- the oil will taste different depending on the variety of truffle used, and the variety of olive oil, or grape seed oil used. Doing this draws the essence of the truffles out and into the oil. Truffle oil should ideally be refrigerated to maintain its flavor. Some who sell truffle oil actually do not use truffles at all and instead inject a chemical compound (2,4-dithiapentane) into the oil to produce a similar one dimensional flavor at reduced cost.

How do you harvest truffles?

Traditionally in Europe truffles were harvested by female pigs because the pheromones ripe truffles emit are similar to pheromones emitted by male pigs. These days however dogs are used because while they have to be trained, they do not eat the truffles.
Sadly, in the United States, truffles are also harvested using rakes which is extremely detrimental to the environment.