What Are Truffles?

Learn about the history of truffles, how to use truffles, and truffle products.

black summer truffles from italy sold at Truffletopia

A truffle is a subterranean fungus, predominantly one of the many species of the Tuber genus. Truffles are similar to, yet very different from, mushrooms. Like mushrooms they are fungi, some of which are edible and some which are poisonous. Unlike mushrooms, truffles grow underground and share a symbiotic relationship with their host trees. Truffles and their growth have long been considered a mystery, and the knowledge and science behind growing truffles is widely kept a secret.

Writings suggest the use of truffles in cuisine dates back to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and possibly as far back as the ancient Egyptians. With the fall of the Roman Empire, written history and the science of truffles seemed to largely disappear. By the 1300's, truffles made a resurgence and were largely recorded to be a delicacy of the nobles, even being described as "the jewel of cookery." In many cultures, truffles have a history of being utilized for their medicinal properties. 

By the 1800's, specific trees were being planted in hopes of cultivating this rare resource. Throughout the world, truffle cultivation has captured the attention of many farmers, scientists, researchers, and business people, yet efforts to cultivate this rare gift of the earth have largely remained a secret.

Multiple species of truffles are highly-prized foods, and due to their rarity and the inability for cultivation, they come with a hefty price tag. Referred to as the “Diamond of the Kitchen,” edible truffles are held in high esteem in French, Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean, and other cuisines. They are typically found in high-end or gourmet restaurants where they are served raw and shaved over meals, for their flavor, like Parmesan cheese would be. Sometimes they are lightly sautéed, but they should never be cooked at high temperatures as this will reduce their flavor and aroma. 

Truffles can also be found in oils, cheeses, processed meat products, butters, salts, sauces, and even honey. Truffle products can be significantly more affordable than fresh truffles.

Truffles are mysterious, magical, and majestic. They have long been used for medicinal purposes and coveted in cuisine. Truffles are one of the world's most expensive foods, and they have been extremely elusive to cultivate. Join us on our journey to make this rare commodity available for your consumption.