A Truffle is delicious fruit of the earth, a real underground treasure highly prized and sought after. It is a subterranean fungus with the shape of a tuber more or less round, with protuberances and cavities.
It arises and develops under special environmental and climate conditions.
Truffles, like mushrooms, grow spontaneously in the soil of open areas, such as forests, uncultivated land, along the banks of rivers or in controlled areas where special trees were manually planted.
Truffles are found with the help of trained dogs which with their accurate sense of smell can pinpoint these underground delicacies.
An interesting fact is that the best truffle finders are actually pigs. However they are not generally used as they are very gluttonous and tend to eat their findings.
The history of truffle has its roots in ages so remote that it is difficult to distinguish what is due to the reality of what is the result of legend or fantasy.
The earliest records can be traced in the book “Naturalis Historia” of Pliny the Elder, who classified truffles “… between those things that are born, but you can not sow”.
Going back to the ancient times, it seems certain that already three thousand years before the birth of Christ the Babylonians knew this fine product of the earth. There is evidence of its presence in the diet of the people of Sumer around 1700 – 1600 BC.
The Greeks called it Hydnon and it is known fact that they used it in their kitchen. The philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea passed on the idea that the precious tuber was born from the combined action of water, heat and lightning. This idea gave inspiration to various poets, including Juvenal, who wrote that the truffle was produced by a thunderbolt hurled by Zeus in the vicinity of an oak tree (Zeus’ sacred tree). Since his connection with Jupiter, well known for his prodigious sexual activity, it originated the idea that truffles have aphrodisiac ability. The pagans, believing in that power, dedicated it to the goddess Venus.
However, legends aside, since ancient times the truffle was much sought after, its price was very high and its presence on the table of nobles and prelates was an indication of nobility and power. Its aroma was considered a sort of “fifth essence” that caused an ecstatic effect in humans.
The term “tartufo” began to spread in Italy in the 600’, but in the meantime the vulgar diction had already migrated to other countries of Europe becoming “trufle” in France, “truffel” in Germany and “truffle” in England.
In the past, in Europe, the truffle was also called “Garlic of the Rich” for its slight garlic-like smell. In Italy it was largely consumer around the seventeenth century in imitation of France, especially in the area of Piedmont, where the search for the precious tuber was a royal fun activity.