It’s no surprise that some of the world’s greatest aphrodisiacs come from Italy. The
world's most valued truffles, the famous black and the highly-prized white, grow in central
and northern Italy, especially in the Piedmont. How well loved are truffles? – This is a
fungus that has a candy named after it. The round chocolate candies with creamy centers,
shaped like truffles, are aphrodisiacs in their own right.
What Is A Truffle?
Truffles have existed for more than 300 million years, but it wasn't until around 1700 that
humans understood that they belong to the mushroom family. Like mushrooms, truffles
are found in the forest, and spread through spores. But truffles are hard, not soft and
spongy like mushrooms. The word “truffle” comes from the Latin word for “tuber.” In
Italian, truffle is tartufo. The word tartufo is also slang for “hypocrite.” This comes from
Molière’s 1664 play Tartuffe, French for truffle, about a con man disguised as a holy man.
His true self was hidden, like a truffle. Many varieties of truffles and mushrooms are found
throughout the world, but the ones with the best taste and commercial value are from
Central and Northern Italy, and southern France. The difference is not only in color, but
also in taste.
The best known of the black truffles, the Black Winter Truffle, Tuber Melanosporum Vitt., is
found primarily in Umbria, Italy, and also in the Périgord region of France. Black Summer
Truffles, Tuber Aestivum Vitt., are most often used for sauces and cured meat products.
The most prized truffle is the Italian white, Tuber Magnatum Pico.
Truffles are usually small, about the size of a walnut. Larger truffles are literally worth
more than their weight in gold. In December 2007, a truffle found near Pisa, Italy,
weighed 3.3 pounds. It sold for $330,000. That’s $100,000 a pound. $6,250 an ounce. To
compare, in December 2011, the price of gold was around $1,800 per ounce.