Truffles

The term “truffles” is used to describe in general fungi that form fruitbodies (mushrooms) hypogeously (i.e. underground, subterraneously) or semi-hypogeously. In European and American bibliography the term “truffles” describes hypogeous ascomycetes, whereas for hypogeous basidiomycetes the term “pseudotruffles” is also used. In particular, “truffles” in the stricter sense are called the species of genus Tuber. Tuber in Latin means a swelling, a bloating, a lump, a name denoting their bulb-like form but also – according to another interpretation – the swelling of the soil above the hypogeously growing fruitbodies. Hypogeous mushrooms can be dug up by trained dogs, pigs, goats and other mammals, as well as by humans.

 

References to truffles can be found in texts from Ancient Greek and Latin literature, as well as in historical sources of other Mediterranean peoples. Plutarch assumed that truffles were clay baked by lightning, whereas Pliny called them “a wonder of nature”. In the Middle Ages superstition related truffles to the devil! Conversely, well-known English poet and philhellene Byron thought they were a source of inspiration and made sure there was always a truffle on his desk. Nowadays truffles are considered an excellent delicacy and a natural aphrodisiac, which gradually passed over from the dishes of kings, nobles and the wealthy also to luxury restaurants, but also on a more extensive scale to mushroom festivals, both in other European countries (Italy, France) and in Greece (Panhellenic Mushroom Festival, Panhellenic Autumn Mycophiles’ Meeting, Panhellenic Spring Mycophiles’ Meeting). The truffle most in demand is the white truffle (Tuber magnatum), whose price can range from very high to sky-rocketing, followed by the black-spored black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), also called the “Mediterranean diamond”. The black winter truffle (Tuber brumale), the summer black (Tuber aestivum) and Borch’s white (Tuber borchii) complete the group of five truffles that have commercial value.

 

Source: George Konstantinidis: Mushrooms, a mushroom gatherer’s photographic guide, 2014