Know The Difference: Are Truffles Mushrooms? What's So Unique About Them?

Moumita Dutta
Aug 31, 2023 By Moumita Dutta
Originally Published on Oct 25, 2021
Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi
Black summer truffle tuber.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.9 Min

Are all truffles mushrooms?

If so, why do they look and feel so different in terms of flavor and taste? Why are truffles so costly?

First of all, truffles are not mushrooms. Yes, both belong to the fungi family, but mushrooms grow above ground and truffles grow underground. This ingredient is extravagant because it takes quite a lot of work to forage truffles.

They are found near the roots of a specific tree and need ambient environmental conditions to grow. However, countries like Australia have mastered the art of harvesting truffles.

Truffles are mainly available in two variants, black and white. Owing to their rarity, they may not be easily accessible to you. But food experts have come up with truffle oil and truffle butter to help you experience the flavor of this one-of-a-kind ingredient.

Wondering what makes truffles different from mushrooms? Keep reading. Explore more fun food facts such as are pumpkins fruit and are strawberries a fruit?

 

Truffles As Mushrooms

Truffles and mushrooms are both a form of fungi, but the similarity ends here. They belong to different species and are treated differently when incorporated into a dish. Most importantly, they taste different.

Part of the Tuber genus, the truffle is the ascomycete fungus's fruiting body. These fruiting bodies belong to the subterranean fungus. This highly revered ingredient is sought after in many cuisines in the world such as French, Italian, Middle Eastern, and Spanish.

Black truffles grow underground near certain trees like oak and beech. The host trees have a symbiotic relationship with these fruiting bodies. Truffles need a specific climate and soil to grow and flourish in.

Europe, North America, North Africa, Australia, and New Zealand are some countries where truffles are found. Animals play a vital role in foraging these black truffles.

Australia is one of the countries that has achieved robust cultivation of truffles. Black and white are the two most famous varieties of this fruiting body. France's black truffles and Italian white truffles are the two most highly valued truffles in the world.

Truffles Are Different From Mushrooms

While both truffles and mushrooms are fungi, that is where the similarity ends. They are different in terms of physical appearance, how they are grown or found, where they are found, how many varieties are available, and how rare they are.

Both truffles and mushrooms are fungi that are highly sought after for their flavor and aroma. Culinary experts love cooking with these two ingredients. So, how are they different?

Truffles come in two main varieties, black and white. Truffles grow and can only be harvested in specific climates, particularly in a climate that is neither too cold nor too hot. Also, the absence of frost is a must for cultivating truffles.

This will also vary depending on the type of truffle being grown. On the other hand, there are thousands of varieties of mushrooms. However, only 20 mushroom species are edible.

Mushrooms grow in most habitats, which is why they are so easily available. They grow above the ground and hence, are easy to forage.

Harvesting mushrooms is not difficult. On the other hand, finding truffles is a challenging task. They only grow in specific conditions and that too underground, attached to specific tree roots.

Specially trained animals are used to find truffles. The most famous variants come from certain parts of the world, especially Europe where the weather is perfect. While this delicacy is cultivated, it's definitely not easy to grow.

All of these factors contribute to truffles being so expensive. You will have to shell as high as $4,000 to get your hands on the rarest and most exquisite truffles!

Among the two, truffles have more flavor than mushrooms. You can cook mushrooms in many different ways. They can be baked, grilled, fried, and more to prepare any type of savory dish.

On the contrary, truffles are not so versatile. They are rarely tampered with or else they will lose the prized flavor, taste, and prized aroma.

Chefs usually shave some truffle over your pasta, risotto, eggs, potatoes, or other continental dishes to enhance the flavor. Truffles are also often added to oil for improving the flavor. While you can preserve mushrooms by adding olive oil, truffles are harder to preserve.

Expensive black truffles gourmet mushrooms in wicker basket.

Truffles: Are you eating an expensive mushroom?

Ever wondered why truffles are so expensive? Sometimes, you want to indulge in some black truffle pasta but are shocked by the cost. Why so? Unlike mushrooms, truffles are harder to find as they grow underground, are difficult to cultivate and maintain.

A pound of edible truffles can cost over $1,000. That's a pretty steep price to pay for some fungi! Since truffles grow underground, finding them is nothing less than an art.

Truffle hunters use specially trained dogs to sniff out the truffles from under the ground. Before dogs, pigs were used as they were attracted to androstenone, which is a pheromone that boars produce during the time of mating.

Pigs were replaced because of the chances of them eating the sniffed-out truffle. Once it is discovered, the truffle hunter has to dig up the truffle without damaging the product. It is a labor-intensive task.

The second reason for the hefty price tag is that the prized, pungent smell of a truffle does not last long. From the moment it is dug up, the aroma of a truffle lasts about a week.

So, the highest quality black and white truffles are best enjoyed when they are fresh. Tuber uncinatum is a variant of the black truffle that can last up to fourteen days.

Cultivating truffles is a challenge. Different truffle species require different climatic conditions. Tuber melanosporum or black truffle requires a unique climate that has a mix of mild winters, warm summers, and no frost.

Truffles also prefer to grow around certain kinds of trees like oak and hazel trees. They are also slow-growing with some truffles taking as much as 5-7 years to grow. The process involves growing host trees in suitable soil conditions and then injecting the soil with fungus.

The area then has to be regularly irrigated. However, there is no guarantee that this will result in a successful harvest. Yet almost 70% of the world's edible truffle is harvested.

Eating Truffles Is Possible If You Are Allergic To Mushrooms

Possible, but best to avoid. As you now know that both truffles and mushrooms are fungi, so your body can react the same way it does with a mushroom allergy.

People with mushroom allergies often wonder if they can consume black truffle or white truffle. Both mushrooms and truffles are types of fungus, but they are not the same.

However, nutritionists and health practitioners normally recommend that you avoid eating truffles when you are allergic to mushrooms. A mushroom allergy can signify that you may be allergic to fungi in general. So, it is advisable to skip the temptation of eating truffles.

 

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for animals with horns then why not take a look at fastest animals in the world, or animals that eat grass?

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Written by Moumita Dutta

Bachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

Moumita Dutta picture

Moumita DuttaBachelor of Arts specializing in Journalism and Mass Communication, Postgraduate Diploma in Sports Management

A content writer and editor with a passion for sports, Moumita has honed her skills in producing compelling match reports and stories about sporting heroes. She holds a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from the Indian Institute of Social Welfare and Business Management, Calcutta University, alongside a postgraduate diploma in Sports Management.

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Fact-checked by Sakshi Raturi

Postgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi Raturi picture

Sakshi RaturiPostgraduate Diploma in Management

Sakshi has experience in marketing strategy, social media planning, and recruiting industry experts for capstone projects, she has displayed a commitment to enhancing their skills and knowledge. She has won multiple awards, including a Certificate of Appreciation for Creative Writing and a Certificate of Merit for Immaculate Turut, and is always seeking new opportunities to grow and develop.

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