05.18.10

Five Things You Didn't Know About Truffles

Difficult to find and divine to eat, there is much to be gleaned from one of nature’s most delicious delicacies.

1. Real truffle oil really does exist
There are many products out there purporting to be made from truffles, but unless you’re a label detective, searching for true truffle oil can be very misleading. Here’s a hint: if the label says USDA 100% Certified Organic, you can bet there are real, organic truffle pieces inside.

2. Dogs are the real truffle hounds
While it’s true that pigs have long been used to scare up truffles, they were also greedy little animals who often ate them as soon as they found them. After WWII, truffle hunters started using dogs, which were easier to pack in the car and preferred a meaty snack to the tasty truffle. Interestingly, because the characteristics of the ideal truffle-hunting dog aren’t specific to any one breed, mutts are usually preferred.

3. You don’t have to be a great cook to serve a truffle dish
While I enjoy cooking an elaborate truffle dinner as much as anyone, I get the biggest pleasure out of adding truffle products to everyday dishes like grilled cheese, mashed potatoes, white pizza, and salads.

4. White truffles can’t be cultivated
Both white and black truffles are found in the wild, in parts of the world where they form symbiotic relationships with oak and hazelnut trees. But while recent efforts to cultivate black truffles look promising, no one has successfully grown a white truffle.

5. Not all truffles are created equal
Beware of dishes using fresh truffles in the warmer months—summer truffles (tuber aestivum) are a poor and flavorless substitute for the real thing, black winter truffles ( tuber melanosporum), also known as black Périgord truffles. It’s easy to spot the difference: summer truffles are light gray instead of charcoal-colored inside.

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Rosario Safina, creator of daRosario Organics, has been the driving force behind the popularization of truffles over the past 20 years. In 2002, Safina published the first book in the U.S. dedicated to this luxury item, Truffles: Ultimate Luxury, Everyday Pleasure. Safina has been featured in outlets including Martha Stewart Living, CNN, Fine Living, Emeril Live, Good Morning America, The New Yorker, The Genuine Article with Gordon Elliott, and NPR.