Truffles are rare because they only grow in very specific conditions. Unlike other mushrooms that grow on dead logs or in the soil (see our previous post on nature’s three ways to make a mushroom), truffles need a live plant to grow in a relationship called the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis.
Why are truffles so rare and expensive?
Truffles are rare because they only grow in very specific conditions. Unlike other mushrooms that grow on dead logs or in the soil (see our previous post on nature’s three ways to make a mushroom), truffles need a live plant to grow in a relationship called the ectomycorrhizal symbiosis. The truffles get sugars from the roots of the tree and in return the truffles provide nutrients from the soil to their tree partner. Truffles only grow on certain types of trees, including oak, hazel, poplar, beech and pine.
The challenge in growing significant quantities of truffles is that you need to grow both the tree and the fungus—and you need them to cooperate with each other while a whole zoo of other microbes lurks in the soil. Scientists still don’t know all of the conditions that tell the fungus to make a truffle structure, so it’s impossible force truffles to grow. Growing the appropriate trees in the correct type of soil and climate is the best you can do—the rest is largely up to nature.
What is the best way to incorporate a truffle into a dish?
Scott loves to pair the white truffle with a Parmigiano-Reggiano risotto or perfectly scrambled eggs. He also loves white truffles shaved over handmade tagliatelle with plenty of butter and Parm. When using truffles with pasta, make sure the pasta is hot to help bring out the volatiles of the fungi.
Pair black truffles with with beef. More specifically, we love it with a roasted ribeye, topped with a slice of seared foie gras, and a Madeira pan sauce. Black truffle also pairs well with surf and turf.
For summer truffle, you can shave it on on anything you’d like to use to impress someone. Scott tends to use a dish with broth so that the limited truffle flavor is dispersed and somewhat more pervasive. Braised lamb shoulder with, say, salsa verde and bagna cauda? Shave some summer truffle on it.