Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Scott. Scott Wonders, “I want to know how to grow truffles and other expensive wild mushrooms” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Scott!
Have you ever been to a fancy restaurant? We’re not talking about the kind of place that has a drive-through window! Instead, we’re picturing linen tablecloths, fine china, and servers in tuxedos!
You might be amazed by the types of food on the menu in fine dining restaurants. You probably won’t see French fries and hamburgers. Instead, you’d find foie gras and caviar. There could even be dishes featuring one of the most expensive foods on Earth. What are we talking about? Truffles, of course!
No, not the chocolate truffles you might see lining store shelves around Valentine’s Day. We’re talking about the rare edible fungus that grows underground, usually at the base of certain types of trees. Similar to mushrooms, truffles can look a bit like potatoes. They have a distinctive aroma and taste that chefs around the world crave.
Unlike most other types of food, truffles can’t really be planted or grown commercially. They can’t be made in a laboratory or raised in a greenhouse, either. Truffles only grow in certain areas. To thrive, they need very specific conditions.
In fact, they usually only grow when partnered with certain trees. These include oak, hazel, poplar, beech, and pine trees. The tree roots provide needed sugars to help the truffles grow. In return, the truffles give nutrients to the tree.
Many people try to grow truffles by planting certain types of trees in limestone soil in the right climate. The rest, however, is up to Mother Nature. Today, most truffles are gathered in the wild. They come from France, Italy, China, and Croatia. Some areas of the Pacific Northwest in the United States have produced truffles, too.
Truffles are quite rare. They’re even harder to find because they tend to grow a foot or more underground. Luckily, their aroma can be sniffed out by specially-trained pigs and dogs. Pigs happen to love truffles. Truffle hunters using these animals must be quick to grab their prize before the pigs can eat them. For this reason, many now prefer to use dogs, since they don’t seem to care for truffles all that much.
There are several different types of truffles. The French black Périgord truffle, can be found in southwestern France. It is known for its aroma and can weigh two pounds or more. The Italian white Piedmont truffle can be found in northwestern Italy and is extremely rare. It has the strongest aroma of all truffles and can weigh as much as one pound.
Chefs who love truffles usually shave or slice them raw over dishes. They might add them to pastas, rice, salads, eggs, and meats. They can also be infused into sauces, soups, cheese, butters, and oils.
Because truffles are so rare and sought after, they can be very expensive. The cheapest truffles can cost $100 or more per pound. And those white Piedmont truffles from Italy? Those rare fungi can command prices of several thousand dollars per pound! Recently, a charity auction sold a pair of rare white truffles, one of which weighed about two pounds, for a whopping $330,000!
Standards: CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.4