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Five Truffle Myths Debunked

MYTH 1: There are only two types of truffles, black and white.

FACT: There are over 100 different varieties of truffles that grow naturally around the world. Of that 100, eight are commonly used, but only four are commercialized because of the quantities harvested: Tuber magnatum Pico (aka white truffles, Alba truffles, Italian truffles); Tuber melanosporum Vittadini (aka black truffle, Périgord truffle, black winter truffle); Tuber aestivum Vittadini (aka black summer truffle); and Tuber albidium Pico (aka bianchetto, Tuscan truffle, Tuber Borchii Vittadini).

MYTH 2: Truffles come only from Italy or France.

FACT: In reality, truffles grow in 12 countries around the world, wherever the correct ecological balance between the host plant (typically a tree, such as oak), environment, and microclimate is found. The truffle lives in a symbiotic relationship with the host plant, helping the root system derive minerals from the soil in return for carbohydrates from the plant. Although certain truffles are associated with certain towns or regions-white truffles from Alba in Italy's Piedmont region or black truffles from Périgueux in France's Périgord region-the fact is that black and white truffles grow in many different places. Most likely the traditional towns rose to prominence because of historic or popular truffle markets and/or famous chefs and dishes using truffles.

You need a trained pig to find a truffle.

FACT: Although pigs were traditionally used to find truffles in France and dogs were more common in Italy, today, dogs, with their keen sense of smell and disinterest in actually eating the truffles they find (unlike pigs) are more popular everywhere. Truth is, some experienced truffle gatherers can find truffles on their own, without the aid of a four-legged friend.

MYTH 4: Truffles are ridiculously expensive.

FACT: While it is true that because of the low quantity harvested the most prized fresh white truffles in season can be extremely expensive-over the last five years they have averaged about $3,200 per pound retail-there are other ways to fit truffles into your budget. For instance, black summer truffles (Tuber aestivum) which are available from June through October, cost a fraction of the price of fresh white truffles, anywhere from $20 to $75 an ounce. Truffle products, such as preserved whole or sliced truffles, truffled cheeses, butter enriched with truffles, and other products, are even less expensive. Beware of truffle products that do not contain any real truffle or only trace amounts. Most truffle oils on the market are not made from any truffle at all, for example.

MYTH 5: Truffles are made from chocolate.

FACT: Chocolate truffles are made from chocolate. Real truffles are made by Mother Nature. In fact, the little misshapen balls of chocolate ganache rolled in cocoa are called truffles because they resemble the real truffles dug up from the dirt. Interestingly, a 17th century Dutch entrepreneur is thought to have invented the truffle-flavored chocolate truffle by using the brandy or port in which fresh truffles had been preserved as a filling for chocolates-chocolate being a relatively new and unexplored ingredient from the New World at the time.

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