Truffles are associated with many myths and legends. Romans highly appreciated truffles, believing that they were created when God Jupiter’s lightning struck an oak tree. Their natural habitat is hidden beneath the oak. They grow under the ground at a depth of 10-30 cm and they favor moist soil mainly near the rivers and they are very hard to find. For this purpose trained dogs and pigs are used which scent reveals the mature mushrooms.
There are two major types of truffles white (Tuber magnatum), which is one of the best kind and also has the largest market price. The white truffle has the penetrating smell of garlic and aged cheese. Another type is the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), which features a sophisticated fragrance reminiscent of garlic and fresh ground.
France and Italy are considered to be the biggest consumers of these ingredient but also the largest producers of truffles in the world. Modern cultivation of truffles in these areas has been present for over thirty years.
ISTRIA, GIANTS AND ELVES
At the European courts they were brought by the family of Savoy during the Middle Ages but in the story of truffles we must not forget to mention beautiful Croatia and its region of Istria, Croatian Tuscany. The best Croatian truffles grow in Istria and the story gets more interesting with the legend of giants and dwarfs.
Old legends say the towns in Istrian hills were built by giants. Sitting on the hills they were passing stones between themselves and immensely enjoyed savoring the truffles that they finally got to their head. The jealous dwarfs smeared truffles with black poison. Unable to resist, the giants ate every last one of the poisonous truffles and evanished from Istria. But black spores have created a new type of truffle, black truffle, which today people cannot resist just like the Istrian giants in a legend.
The truffles in Istria were used in rural areas and were simply added in boiled potatoes or scrambled eggs. Today, gastronomic combinations with truffles are almost endless, although in traditional Istrian cuisine truffles are grated on fuži, gnocchi, polenta and omelets. Here at our family restaurant in the hearth of the Dubrovnik Old Town we serve homemade traditional Istrian fuži (pasta) with black truffles.
WINE AND TRUFFLE: THE LOVE BETWEEN THE TWO
Pairing food and wine is sometimes complicated process, and blending wines and dishes with truffles is particularly difficult. White truffle is superior in tastes and is very important that the wine does not outshine its flavor intensity. Best proverb that fully explains the truffle flavor on a plate is: Truffle in a delicious meal is like excellent perfume on a beautiful woman.
Mushrooms are the only plant with vitamin D.
Author: Anđela Leko