The History of Truffles

Black truffle Tuscany
plinio-il-vecchio

The first true testimony widespread in Europe can be found in Pliny the Elder’s Naturalis Historia (23-79 AD). The anecdotes have revealed that the truffle was highly appreciated at the table by ancient Romans who had copied the culinary use of the ancient Etruscans.

The Greeks also used truffles in their cooking, as demonstrated by the philosopher Plutarch of Chaeronea, who handed down, at that time (1st century AD), the idea that the rare and precious mushroom was born from the combination of some natural elements such as water, heat, and lightning. The poet Juvenal took inspiration from this theory according to which the origin of the truffle is due to a thunderbolt thrown by the father of the gods, Jupiter, near an oak tree. In addition to this, since Jupiter was famous for its prodigious sexual activity, the truffle was considered highly aphrodisiac. Based on this power, another legend tells that the pagans dedicated the truffle to the goddess Venus. Although the precious mushroom was treated by scholars, philosophers and poets, the origin of the truffle was never established.

Therefore the very little knowledge combined with popular beliefs made us think of the truffle as a degenerative growth of the soil and, over the years, as the devil’s or witches’ food.

In the 1700s, Count de Borch published a monograph on the truffle called “Lettres sur les truffles du Piemont,” while Vittorio Pico, in 1788, described the white truffle calling it with the name Tuber Magnatum.

However, the first scientific description of the precious underground mushroom was obtained only in 1831, thanks to the “Monographia Tuberacearum” written by Carlo Vittadini.

Giacomo-morra-alba

In this book, the Italian botanist and mycologist describe many species of truffles, which is why, like many of these, they still bear his name (Tuber Melanosporum Vittad, Tuber Aestivum Vittad, Tuber Brumale Vittad, etc.).

With the publication of this book, idnology (from the Greek Hydnon) was born, the science that still studies truffles today.

After that, we get to 1929 to talk about the main character in the world of truffles: Giacomo Morra.

The well-known restaurateur and hotelier from Alba had the brilliant idea of ​​making the white truffle an object of international worship, creating an event of tourist and gastronomic appeal around the precious mushroom.

In addition, he also had the idea of ​​sending a precious truffle every year to famous people such as the President of the United States, Harry Truman, in 1951, the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in 1953, the sportsman Joe Di Maggio and the American actress Marylin Monroe in 1954.

The Hunting

Progetto senza titolo 2 - La Marronaia - truffles

Truffle hunting takes time and, as mentioned before, a lot of patience.

First, since it is a puppy, the dog must be trained to improve its nose to find these precious underground mushrooms, which reside several centimeters below the earth in conjunction with specific trees.

The main ones are the ash, the elm, the maple, the cormiolo, the rowan, the broom, the oak, the hazelnut, the black and white hornbeam, the fir, the chestnut, the beech, the larch, the walnut. , pine, black and white poplar.

The soils, however, differ according to the type of truffle you want to look for. Also, the ideal hours to go out hunting for truffles are at dawn in the summer since the dog gets tired quickly with the intense heat.

In winter, on the contrary, it is preferred to go out in the hottest hours, when the warmth warms the ground and allows the scent of the truffle to emerge.

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