When you hear the word “luxury”, several things may come to mind, such as private jets, the Rolls Royce Phantom, or 5 Diamond hotels. However, there is a food that belongs high on the same list, and that food is truffles! Ounce for ounce, truffles are the most expensive food in the world and have been a delicious obsession of top international chefs and foodies for years. You may be wondering why a rare fungi is such a coveted item on the gourmet food scene, and you are about to find out!
How Are They Harvested?
Truffles typically grow underground around the roots of trees, and even to this day, they are found with the help of highly trained dogs. They sniff the ground and can accurately identify just where the truffle is. One of the greatest benefits of dogs handling this task, rather than just randomly digging around near tree roots hoping to find truffles, is that dogs are able to detect when they are at their peak, meaning they are harvested at the ideal time. This job used to be handled by female pigs who were attracted to their smell (which is similar to their male counterpart’s sex pheromone) but were phased out because they too often ate what they found!
Where Do They Grow?
Truffles may seem like an elusive delicacy (which they are!), but there are specific regions where they are found. The two most famous areas where truffles grow are in France and Italy, each of which has its own specialty. Black truffles, which can be loosely compared to cacao, are from France, while white truffles from Italy (which are the most expensive of all the varieties) have an earthy quality. The region truffles come from is important because its specific growing conditions will impart certain characteristics unique to that area, and each truffle produced is a one-of-a-kind delectable masterpiece. While these two European powerhouses produce the majority of the world’s most desirable truffles, there are now truffle-growing areas in Australia, Chile, China, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the U.S.
Why Are They So Expensive?
Several factors play into the high price tag of truffles. First of all, they are rare and becoming more so every year due to climate change. They are quite perishable and don’t last long after harvesting, with a shelf life of about just five or six days. Made up largely of water, truffles lose weight every day they aren’t in the ground, so quickly getting them into the hands of capable chefs is of utmost importance.
When And How Should They Be Enjoyed?
This delicate, flavorful fungus is in season during autumn and winter, and reaches its peak from late October through late November. While you can purchase truffles and prepare them yourself, most connoisseurs prefer to leave the task up to professional chefs who are highly skilled in choosing the best direction for their complex aromas and flavors. Some of the most popular ways to serve them are on top of buttery steak, starring in pasta dishes or even with scrambled eggs. Bon apetit!