There’s a reason why truffles, rather unassuming lumps of fungus that fall under the umbrella of the genus Tuber category, are so expensive. And so sought after by chefs and those with a refined enough palette to appreciate what it is they’re gracing their mouths with when they taste one. Each and every truffle has a flavor that is all its own, and humans still can’t figure out how the hell to farm the damned things.
Truffles are a little bit finicky on where they like to grow (underground, near the roots of trees like oak, pine and birch) and are extremely sensitive to temperature fluctuations, which is why you’ll never stumble across one in your local supermarket. The effort it takes to find and harvest a fully formed truffle, whether it’s in Europe, the Middle East, or even select regions of the United States, means that by weight they rank as the most expensive food in the world.
While there have been ongoing attempts to grow truffles under controlled conditions (which currently means planting trees truffles like to grow under and keeping your fingers crossed), the success rate has been minimal. Foraging for truffles, which are not found in huge batches when they are discovered in the wild, often requires trained dogs to sniff them out. For years, female pigs were the go-to truffle-hunting animals of choice. Truffles contain androstenol, a sex hormone found in the saliva of male pigs, which is the scent a truffle-hunting sow hones in on. The major issue in this equation? Pigs are, well, pigs. They eat just about anything – including truffles. No word yet on the market price for bacon from a hungry truffle-hunting pig, but chances are you’d spit your morning coffee out when told it.
Story by Jay Moon
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