The scent of truffles is packed with heady, earthiness that makes my salivary glands stand up and take notice.
Just the smallest drop of black truffle oil on my morning eggs turns my simple breakfast into an exotic feast. With a flavor that gives fleeting hints of forests primeval, there’s just something about the tiniest taste that feels so right as the feel of autumn begins to slip into the air. For me, truffles are indeed a seasonal food. I love them in the fall and winter and don’t love them quite as much in the spring and summer. Interestingly, that just happens to fall right in line with when white and black truffles are actually in season. White truffle season runs from roughly October to December (depending of course on the climate) and Black truffle season begins in December and runs until March-ish.
Truffles are, according to multiple culinary resources, the most sought after and the most expensive edible fungus in the culinary world. They are challenging to find without the help of a truffle sniffing pig or dog. Truffles create symbiotic relationships with trees, so they are typically found a couple of inches below the detritus/soil amongst tree roots. Interestingly, truffles cannot reproduce from their own mating spores so need to find a way to get in contact with non-related truffles in order to proliferate. This is where the truffle snuffling wild boars come into play; they eat the truffles that they love so much and carry the spores to another location, ahem, “depositing” them in the vicinity of better truffle reproductive potential.
From a culinary perspective, truffles are the “diamonds of the kitchen” according to Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin. It’s important to keep in mind that a little bit goes a long way; not just because of the price but also because the smell and flavor can become so intensely overpowering that it is no longer inviting. White truffles tend to lighten in scent and flavor once added to heat, while black truffles appear to do the opposite. Just the right amount will enhance the flavor of meats, veggies, whatever you are preparing with an earthy, woodsy quality that is almost beyond description.
From a health perspective, one reason the scent and flavor of truffles can tend to defy description is because truffles elicit a sensation as much as a flavor. Their scent is molecularly similar to human male pheromones (and pig pheromones) which stimulates a more complex neurochemical response. In a way you could say that indeed truffles are a bona-fide aphrodisiac. Nutritionally, truffles contain a high concentration of protein and a lovely combination of amino acids making them a heart healthy tidbit. As a fungus, they contain many of the same properties as the Reishi or Maitake mushrooms, however, chances are you wouldn’t eat enough of them to reap the full nutrient potential. They are immune boosting, heart friendly, belly friendly, and above all palate friendly! Try a truffle and see if it makes you swoon. (: