While it’s true that they more closely resemble a clod of earth or a dirty pebble, truffles are actually a type of edible mushroom. Probably not similar to any kind of mushroom you’ll pick up in the supermarket but a mushroom all the same. Chances are you won’t spot them in too many supermarkets anyway. If you did, they would more than likely be under lock and key, watched over by a burly security guard in case anyone tried to remove a few precious shavings with a cheese grater they had hidden under their coat.
‘True’ truffles are always found near trees. The technical term for this is mycorrhiza and it basically means that trees and truffles are like bread and butter – a perfect combination. Other fungi have jumped on the bandwagon and call themselves truffles but beware of anything that hasn’t been dug up by a tree root; you might be paying over the odds for an impostor.
Even if you know what you’re looking for and reckon you can spot a truffle at twenty paces, you might still be baffled by the sheer variety on offer. They also come in numerous different colours and textures, to confuse you even more. They can be black, white, smooth, wrinkled and, of course, they vary a great deal in size from no more than a pea to the size of an orange or even larger.
The bigger the size, the greater the prize, and particularly large truffles are very highly sought after and fetch eye-watering amounts of money. As larger specimens are extremely rare, truffle hunters the world over are constantly on the lookout for a huge truffle that will net them a fortune. They could then put their feet up and allow their pigs to get back to rolling around in mud instead of sniffing around tree roots.