Truffles are fungi belonging to the Tuberaceae family, but so remarkably unique that a separate branch of botany, called hydnology, has been dedicated to studying them. Known as a precious ingredient since ancient times, the Greeks believed they consisted in a combination of water, heat and lightning. And if that fails to amaze, wait until you find out some of the figures regarding truffles!
31 Kcal are provided by 100 grams of truffles, so they are recommended for those on a diet. It would also appear that they are aphrodisiacal. Their composition varies according to the species but, generally, one hundred grams of truffle contain 4.5 grams of protein, 2 grams of fat, 0.3 grams carbohydrates, 2 grams ashes, 8 grams of fibre. Being fungi, truffles also contain a great deal of water, about 82 grams in fact!
60 tons of white winter truffles are exported annually from Italy, the world’s primary and practically exclusive producer of this species. Since it is a highly perishable food, only a few species are suitable for exportation. The white truffle is therefore flanked by the less valuable “black winter” variety, whose number one exporter is France (50 tons per year), followed by Spain (30) and again Italy (20). The price of white truffles can even reach a figure of 5000 Euro per kilo (Tuber magnatum). Its value depends on the seasonal supply which, in its turn, depends on many factors, principally the weather.
13 are the main varieties of truffle: Tuber aestivum, Tuber uncinatum, Tuber macrosporum, Tuber brumale, Tuber brumale moschatum, Tuber magnatum, Tuber melanosporum, Tuber rufum, Tuber oligospermum, Tuber excavatum, Tuber puberulum, Tuber borchii and Tuber mesentericum.
10 million tons of mushrooms and truffles are consumed yearly throughout the world. China is the number one consumer with 7 million tons, followed at a great distance by Italy (just under one million tons) and the United States (half a million).
20,000 dollars were spent by singer Jay-Z in 2012, when he decided to stock up on Alba truffles. Is that a record? Not exactly: two years earlier, Stanley Ho, owner of the Macau casino, spent as much as 330,000 dollars for two truffles weighing 1.3 kilos.
2 countries are successfully experimenting truffle farming on a large scale. These are Italy and France, even though the phenomenon is starting to spread to the UK, Australia and Oregon.
150 is the average cost of a truffle hamburger served up in a New York restaurant. Do you fancy making one at home? Our advice is to use normal meat burgers with a truffle sauce to be prepared separately. How? Once the black truffle has been cleaned (a black summer one will do fine), grate it and set it aside. Heat some olive oil and garlic in a small saucepan. When the garlic turns golden in colour, remove it and take the pan off the heat. Add the truffle and a spoonful of butter to the garlic oil. Mix thoroughly and your truffle sauce is ready to use in your hamburger.
75% of the world market is supplied by one single truffle producer: Urbani Tartufi, as the firm is called, is world famous and headquartered in Perugia, Italy.
250 grams of meat, cut “carpaccio-style” (very finely), a spoonful or so of olive oil and salt to taste is all you need to enjoy a fine truffle. Preferably white of the “Magnatum” variety, but any other species is fine. Arrange the (raw) meat slices on a plate and season with oil and a little salt. At this point, cover with fine slices of truffle. As a general rule, this ingredient can be fully appreciated when used in simple recipes like this. Alternatively, resort to a great classic: eggs. The only method consented here is to gently fry the egg in a pan. Obviously the truffle will be added at the end when the egg is cooked and dished out.