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Why Real Truffles Are So Expensive | So Expensive

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Oct 26, 2019

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Why Real Truffles Are So Expensive | So Expensive
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  • Luxury cousins of the mushroom,
  • truffles are an indulgent food enjoyed across the world.
  • But these fragrant fungi will cost you.
  • In 2014, the world's largest white truffle was flown
  • to New York accompanied by a security guard
  • and sold at auction for $61,000.
  • Discovered in Italy, this gigantic fungus
  • weighed almost 2 kilos.
  • So, what is it that makes them so expensive?
  • There are a lot of types of truffle.
  • There are at least 40 species, many of which aren't edible,
  • and new species have been discovered as recently as 2018.
  • You've probably seen luxury truffle products
  • in supermarkets or fancy restaurants,
  • but the unique truffle flavor you recognize
  • might not be real truffle at all.
  • Cheap truffle oil often hasn't been
  • anywhere near a real truffle.
  • Many cheaper truffle products use 2,4-dithiapentane,
  • a synthesized compound containing one
  • of the main aromatic components of foot odor,
  • guaranteed to give it that "earthy" taste.
  • Real truffles are seasonal and pricey,
  • with a short shelf life.
  • They were originally sniffed out using truffle pigs,
  • but while pigs are very good at finding truffles,
  • they're also very good at eating them, too.
  • And these days, dogs are much more common
  • truffle-hunting companions.
  • These fungi can be found across the world,
  • but they all require a very specific climate to grow.
  • While different varieties may have
  • somewhat different requirements, one thing is certain.
  • You can't have truffles without trees.
  • James Feaver: Truffles are always found with trees,
  • and they have to be the right type of trees.
  • Under the ground, the truffle is just the fruiting body,
  • so an equivalent to an apple.
  • And we've also got a lot of then what we call
  • the mycelium, microscopic-level threads,
  • and up to 100 meters in a teaspoon of soil.
  • And this mycelium is actually attached to the roots
  • of a tree like the fingers of glove onto a hand.
  • And it sort of extends the reach of the tree out.
  • And it actually takes up water and nutrients
  • and passes them to the tree, and the tree gives it sugars
  • in return, so to help the truffles, the fruit, develop.
  • Narrator: Even when you have exactly the right conditions,
  • truffles aren't guaranteed,
  • and hunting them is a labor-intensive process.
  • Once you know where to look, you have to sniff out
  • and dig up each truffle by hand,
  • and they can be tricky to find.
  • Feaver: Good boy, thank you, good boy, come!
  • So he just told us there it's still in the ground.
  • So do I want to take it out of the ground or not?
  • It all depends on if it's ripe.
  • If it's unripe, there's no point in having it.
  • So the nose comes into play.
  • And we actually sniff the ground for it.
  • Narrator: It may take a while,
  • but finding a good one can make it worth the work.
  • Feaver: Yeah, that's a nice one.
  • Yeah, that's probably about
  • 70, 80 grams.
  • Narrator: Truffles also have a short season,
  • often appearing for only a few months of the year.
  • And even when you do get your hands on them,
  • they don't last for long.
  • Feaver: An unripe truffle, unlike a tomato,
  • which you could cut from the vine
  • and ripen on your windowsill,
  • once the truffle is out of the ground, the clock is ticking.
  • So it's just sort of slowly gonna degrade over time.
  • So we want to get it out to the customers nice and fast.
  • Narrator: After just five days out of the ground,
  • that pungent truffle smell will have halved.
  • You can farm many truffle varieties,
  • besides the rare Italian whites.
  • Many people have been successful
  • in setting up truffle orchards, but it's not easy.
  • Trees need to be planted in the right soil conditions,
  • inoculated with truffle fungus,
  • and often irrigated constantly.
  • It can take as long as six years
  • before you get a good truffle harvest,
  • and there's no guarantee that the fungi will grow at all.
  • So after all that effort, what do they actually taste like?
  • Ju Shardlow: Ooh.
  • Claudia Romeo: Hm.
  • Leon Siciliano: The smell just made me think
  • it was gonna be really strong.
  • The flavor is actually quite subtle.
  • There's a nuttiness there.
  • There's, like, an earthy flavor there.
  • Ju: Actually quite light and fragrant.
  • It tastes a lot nicer than it smells.
  • It smells like damp socks.
  • Claudia: That's good.
  • I mean, this is the first time I've actually eaten
  • a truffle by itself.
  • You know, it's a bit like mushroom,
  • but it's more of a meaty, meaty bite.
  • Narrator: These days, farming has taken over
  • as our primary source of truffles,
  • and today, 70% of the world's truffles are cultivated.
  • Through the loss of woodland and climate change,
  • the number of wild truffles has decreased significantly.
  • Since the 19th century, production in France has fallen
  • from over 1,000 tonnes a season to just 30 tonnes.
  • And climate change could mean that truffles will disappear
  • altogether in the future.
  • Feaver: The weather conditions are so important,
  • not just immediately, over the whole season.
  • We're getting much lower numbers
  • and much lower average size.
  • A truffle is about 70% water,
  • so it needs rainfall to help it grow.
  • Some UK truffle scientists are thinking
  • that your traditional areas,
  • the climate is gonna move further north,
  • and they're not gonna have a truffle industry
  • within I think perhaps 50 years.
  • There's threats, there's opportunities,
  • but rain, we do need rain.
  • When we get a dry summer,
  • the holidaymakers, they're delighted,
  • but I keep crossing my fingers
  • for a bit of rain every now and again.

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Luxury cousins to the mushroom, truffles are an indulgent food enjoyed across the world. But these fragrant fungi will cost you.

For more, visit:
https://www.englishtruffles.co.uk/

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Why Real Truffles Are So Expensive | So Expensive