Truffles fascinate people all over the world, they are enjoyed as a delicacy in a wide variety of types and forms around the globe. Since days beyond recall, these noble delicacies have been surrounded by mystery. Around the noblest mushroom in the world entwine curious stories and tales. Where fantasy begins and reality ends is usually not quite clear... it is said that mankind believed that truffles grow in places where lightning has struck. This is due to the fact that these precious objects are rare and difficult to find. Let us embark on a search of clues and follow the history of the truffle.
The word truffle is derived from the Latin word "tuber", which means "outgrowth, bump or swelling". They owe their name to the fact that the mushrooms grow underground, at a depth of a few centimeters to a meter. The truffle is the fruiting body of hypogenous mushrooms, which belong to the genus Tuber and the family Tuberaceae.
Truffles first appeared in the writings of the Babylonians about 5000 years ago. As early as 100 AD, the Greeks used them to prepare meals. Through the philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea, the theory arose at that time that truffles were created from a combination of natural elements such as water, heat and lightning.
This idea inspired the famous Roman satirical poet Juvenal. He wrote that truffles originated from a lightning bolt that Jupiter, the father of the gods, had hurled at the earth from an oak tree. The oak tree, under which the truffles grow, was considered a divine sanctuary at that time. Jupiter was known for his sexual activity, through this legend truffles were henceforth said to have aphrodisiac qualities. This myth of truffles as aphrodisiacs persists to this day.
In the 1980s, researchers also discovered in truffles the ingredient androstenone, a pheromone with a strong musky scent.
According to legend, a farmer accidentally discovered that his pig was eating mushrooms in the root of a tree. Since the pig remained healthy for a very long time afterwards, the farmer ate these mushrooms himself. As a result, he and his wife had thirteen children, although they had not been able to produce children before. Because of this story, people increasingly believed that truffles were a gift from God to mankind and could do supernatural things for health. The Greeks and Romans therefore used the mushrooms for medicinal purposes and believed that they could grant eternal health.
Many years later, studies on truffle extracts showed that these mushrooms contain phenols, flavonoids and polysaccharides. These various bioactive compounds can have antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects. So truffles have been proven to be really good for our health.
The white truffle of Alba "Tuber Magnatum Pico" is nowadays world famous. The Alba truffle is currently one of the most expensive produce in the world. This precious white truffle Tuber Magnatum Pico is found only in a few areas of Italy and Croatia and until now nobody was able to cultivable it.
Already in the 18th century, the truffle from Piedmont was considered one of the most exquisite ingredients in the European courts. But it was not until the 20th century that the Alba truffle became world famous, thanks to the clever idea of Giacomo Morra, an innkeeper from Alba. Morra started to send the white truffle to celebrities from all over the world and so the the Alba white truffle gaines world-wide. Giacomo Morra was even named the King of Truffles by The Times magazine in 1993. Morra was also the founder of the famous annual truffle fair of Alba, which still to this day attracts countless visitors from throughout the world.
Not all the stories and curiosities surrounding the truffle have been solved yet, and perhaps they never will be. Thus, the fascination around the noble mushroom will continue for a long time and inspire many people not only epicureans.