Largest White Truffle Ever Found
In 2007, Stanley Ho, a casino owner, paid $330,000 for a 3.3 lb. white truffle. In 2010 an auction price of £165,000 was paid for a pair of white truffles, following this in 2010, the largest found truffle sold at auction for $417,200 (£267,000). For the current largest truffle on auction by Sotheby’s (New York), bidding started at $50,000 (£30,000) and it was finally sold for $61,250 (£39,313) on 6 December 2014 to the only bidder, a food and wine lover from Taiwan.
This extraordinary truffle was found by the Balestra family of Sabatino Truffles, one of the largest truffle suppliers in the world. The family plan to donate the proceeds to a number of charities.
We say ‘found’ because truffles are searched for and located, as opposed to being discovered by chance. A truffle was found in the Umbrian region of Italy weighing 4.16 pounds (1.89 kilos,) which is nearly twice the size and weight of the largest truffle previously found.
A white truffle is the rarest and most coveted food ingredient in the world. Truffle hunters are required to be licenced and unlike past times when they used pigs to sniff out the scent of a truffle location, nowadays dogs are more common.
Sows were originally used because the scent released by the truffle is similar to a male pig, which the sow is attracted to. In fact, it has been prohibited since 1985 to use pigs to hunt for truffles because they damage the truffle beds in their zeal to get to the scent. Pigs eat truffles and that is not a desirable trait.
The prized Winter White and Black truffles are found only by using the trained dogs in specific areas of Italy in the Autumn and Winter, during the months of October, November, and December.
They grow chiefly in broadleaved woodland on calcareous soils. The chemicals contained in truffles mimic mammal reproductive hormones, so they can be scented out and found by forest animals, guaranteeing they will be eaten and have their spores dispersed.
Once found by the dog, the truffle hunter uses a hoe to carefully prise out the truffle. If it is large enough it is destined for high end cuisine served on tables around the world, if it doesn’t meet the desired size and perfection, the truffle will likely be used on a bowl of pasta for the hunter or his family and friends. A portion of the truffle is traditionally put back into the ground to act as a spore for future growth.
The point when a truffle is ripe and when our hunter’s dogs can catch its heady aroma is when this tangled root network, known as mycelium, and the fungal spores come together to form the hard nugget so gastronomically prized throughout history. This can take between 4-7 years after fruiting (when they have taken root), some 5 to 30 cm below the woodland floor in well-drained chalk or limestone alkaline soil.
A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus, a wild product. Truffles are a species belonging to the tuber genus. Tubers are various types of plants enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months, to provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season. A tuber is a part of a plant that stores energy for later much like a seed does.
The truffle tuber has a symbiotic relationship with a South facing deciduous tree (e.g. oak, lime, hazel, beech). The underground fungus provide the tree with an extended root to absorb nutrients, and in return the tree provides glucose for the truffle to grow, crucial as with no part above ground truffles are not able to photosynthesise.
The ancient Sumarians, Egyptians, Greeks and Romans all sought out truffles. The first mention of truffles appears in Sumerian inscriptions describing their Amorite enemy’s eating habits (20C BCE). The Middle Ages saw Europe truly on the truffle quest due to their purported aphrodisiac qualities, although some say truffles were forgotten about during this time, the papal historian Bartolomeo Platina, writote about truffle hunting in 1481 stating that the sows of Notza were without equal in hunting truffles, but they should be muzzled to prevent them from eating the prize.
It is accepted that truffles regained popularity in Europe during the Renaissance, in particular through France where the revival of European art and literature under the influence of classical models in the 14th–16th centuries also included the renaissance of French cuisine where banquet organisers applied ancient ideals of proportion, harmony and order to the culinary arts and the birth of professional chefs and cooks were founded.
One of the best representatives of the traits of the Renaissance and a link between Italy and France was Caterina de’ Medici, daughter of the Duke of Florence, who in 1533 sailed from Portovenere to her new home in France, where she became the Queen Cathérine de’ Medici. She brought with her several chefs and bakers, as well as chests of Italian foodstuffs.
Today Winter White Truffles are the most expensive food in the world. The ones that carry the highest prices are black truffles of Perigord in France and white truffles of Umbria and Piedmont in Italy.?
You may wonder if they can be farmed and why they fetch such a high price and although it is possible to farm black truffles successfully, the very best examples depend on unique conditions to thrive.
Truffles immediately begin losing water to evaporation as soon as they’re dug up. To combat that, no expense is spared to get the truffle to the table. Usually this is within 36 hours. To really appreciate truffles, you have to eat them fresh, and since they have a very short shelf life, they have to be used quickly after discovery.
Another reason for the high prices is the short time that fresh truffles are available which is reflected in the prices charged for them. In particular when a yield for that season is low, prices can almost double.
The origin of the word truffle is the Latin term tuber, meaning ‘swelling’ which became various names throughout Europe; French truffe, Spanish trufa, Danish trøffel, German Trüffel, Swedish tryffel, Dutch truffel, Polish trufel, Portuguese trufa.
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