And how are they different from mushrooms?

By Sarra Sedghi
Updated: May 03, 2019
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Truffles have a reputation that precedes them. The first words your brain associates with them are likely luxurious, fancy, or out of my price range. Also, sorry if you came here to read about chocolate, because we’re talking about tuber fungi. 

What do truffles taste like?

Truffles taste similar to some varieties of mushrooms, but are much more pungent. Think rich and earthy, but like, really earthy. Truffles aren’t the kind of food you bite into: Instead, they’re typically grated over dishes—sort of like a finishing garnish, but with much more flavor. 

What are the different types of truffles?

Truffles are categorized by their color (black or white), their growing season (summer or winter), and where they’re grown. (Truffles were first cultivated in France, but now they’re grown in Italy, the U.S., the U.K, Australia, Chile, South Africa, Sweden, Spain, and New Zealand.) There are four main varieties: summer black, winter black, white, and Burgundy. White truffles, the most delicate, are the most expensive variety, followed by winter black, Burgundy, and summer black. This is all relative, of course, because even the less valuable truffle varieties start at several hundred dollars per pound. 

Why are truffles so expensive?

The exorbitant price of truffles has a little something to do with supply and demand. Luckily, since they have such a strong flavor, you only need a little bit. Truffles are considered rare and only grow under specific conditions—they can be cultivated, but it’s not easy. First, truffles like to grow underground near certain tree roots, so you can’t exactly see them. Additionally, whether they’re foraged or farmed, harvesting truffles is an intense process that requires animals with a keen sense of smell, notably pigs or dogs, to sniff them out. Because truffles have such a high price point, they often infuse or are mixed into other items, like oil, honey, salt, and even hot sauce

Are truffles mushrooms? 

Truffles and mushrooms are both fungi, so they share a few broad similarities such as flavor and appearance. The biggest difference between truffles and mushrooms is how they grow. While mushrooms prefer to grow above the ground, on surfaces such as trees and decaying logs, truffles strictly grow underground, attached to tree roots. Truffles are more intense than mushrooms, both in terms of price and flavor. Lastly, there are far more varieties of edible mushrooms than truffles. 

What is truffle oil?

Truffle oil is a less expensive substitute for actual truffles. Theoretically, the olive oil is infused with actual truffles, but most truffle oil is made with synthetic flavoring or lower quality truffle varietals. 

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