Why Are Truffles So Expensive?
Most of us have only had the privilege of trying truffles in the form of truffle oil or truffle butter. Truffles can variate in the form in which they are served. But when it comes to fresh truffle with some selling for up to $2,500/lb, many of us balk at the price.
Before we can understand why truffles are so expensive, it’s important to get a solid foundation of what truffles are, where they are found, and how they are purchased. For this reason, we’ve organized this post to help you navigate your new understanding of Why Truffles Are So Expensive:
- What Is A Truffle?
- How Do Truffles Taste?
- Where Do Truffles Come From?
- How Do you Find Truffles?
- So, Are They Over-Rated?
What Is A Truffle?
Truffles are the Louis Viton of the fungi family. They are the fruit of the ectomycorhizal fungus, meaning they can only grow near the roots of trees, and underground. Tree is the keyword in that last sentence. The truffle finds water and nutrients in the soil to pass up to the tree. To thank the truffle, the tree passes on the sugars it generates through photosynthesis.
With over 200 species of truffles in the world, only a handful are appropriate for consumption. And the ones that satisfy our taste buds, aren’t the easiest to cultivate.
How Do Truffles Taste?
It’s very difficult to find an ingredient with a similar aromatic profile to truffles. The exotic. heady, and funky mushroom smell make your eyelids instinctively close and your eyes roll into the back of your head. The taste is earthy, musky and as appealing as the aroma of garlic that makes you go, “hmmm”.
Where Do Truffles Come From?
The rarest and most expensive truffles are found in Italy, France and Spain. To date, one of the few truffles from outside of Europe that is take seriously by foodies is the Oregon Truffle. Fun fact: Bec in the times of the Greeks and Romans, truffles were often used as aphrodisiacs and medicines, on top of being a delicacy. Not-so-fun-fact: Wild-foraged mushrooms were used in political murders by Romans.
How Do You Find Truffles?
Finding truffles really isn’t so easy. Not only are they slow growers, but they’re extremely picky about their environments. A truffle will evaluate the soil’s temperature and moisture level, and scan the area for any competing fungi before letting itself blossom to its full potential.
It can actually take years for a truffle to grow…with cultivation of the famous Italian White Truffle being the most complex.
Often times, truffle farmers use trained truffle dogs to find the right truffles. In the past, farmers used to use female pigs to locate truffles as they are naturally drawn to the smell. This quickly ended when many truffle lives were lost to the pigs appetite, or the pig’s chaotic way of rooting the soil with their snout.
So, Are Truffles Overated? Or Are They Worth the Price?
So why are truffles so expensive? Truffles may not be used in the every-day kitchen, but their popularity is rising in the United States. The scarcity and the skills needed in order to turn it into a quality ingredient is what sets a truffle apart and makes it worth the price.
The quest one must ask oneself when considering a truffle purchase is, “Am I eating to survive? Or am I eating to savor and appreciate good food?”
If you categorize yourself as the latter, then truffles are for you… if you can afford them that is.