THE ANCIENT HISTORY OF TRUFFLE
The history of truffle, a fruit of the earth known since ancient times
The history of the truffle has its roots in ancient times, so that it is difficult to distinguish what is due to the reality of what is the fruit of legend or fantasy
The origin of the word TRUFFLE was long debated by linguists who came to the conclusion, which it resulted from TERITUFRU, vulgarization of the late Latin Terrae Tüfer (outgrowth of the earth), where Tüfer would be used instead of tuber.
The first written records date back to 1600-1700 B.C., at the time of the Sumerians and the patriarch Jacob. The ancient Sumerians used the truffle mixing it with other plants such as barley, chickpeas, lentils and mustard, while it is said that the ancient Athenians worshiped enough to confer citizenship to children of Cherippo, for inventing a new recipe.
The earliest records about truffles appear in the Naturalis Historia of Plinio il Vecchio.
In the first century A.D. the greek philosopher Plutarco of Chaeronea conveyed the idea that the magnificent mushroom born from the action conbined of water, heat and lightnings.
From this theory many poets, including Juvenal, explained that the origin of the precious fungus due to a thunderbolt hurled by Jupiter near an oak tree (tree held sacred to the father of the gods). Jupiter was also renowned for his prodigious sexual dynamism. That’s why truffle, always, you are recognized aphrodisiac properties. The physician Galen expressed in this way: “The truffle is very nutritious and can reinvent the pleasure of love”.
Most probably their “Tuber terrae” was not the fragrant truffle which we taste today, but the “Terfezia Leanis” (Terfezia Sandstone) or similar species. They abounded, then more than now, in North Africa and West Asia, reaching the weight of three to four kilograms; it is understandable that they were very popular (to the point of being called “the food of the gods”), because at that time the American origin tubers, such as potato and Jerusalem artichokeas were completely unknown.
Tuber magnatum Pico never came to be part of the refined Roman recipes, although Rome, although one of Roman Emperor Publius Pertinax, was a citizen of Alba. The truffles that delighted the palates of the Roman patricians were poor only in quality, because, as far as the price, this was salty. The writer Apicius in his “De Re Coquinaria” inserted six recipes with truffles in the seventh book, the one which spoke about the most expensive dishes.
Throughout the Middle Ages, truffle avoided frugal soup kitchens and remained the food of wolves, foxes, badgers, pigs, wild pigs and mice.
The Renaissance relaunched the taste of good food and so Truffle set off to conquer the first place among the most refined dishes. The black truffle appeared on the tables of French gentlemen between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, while in Italy at that time the white truffle was establishing.
In ‘700, the Piedmontese truffle was considered a delicacy by all the European Courts.
Truffle hunting was a palace of entertainment, so guests and foreign ambassadors visiting Turin were invited to attend it.
Hence in this period, the use of a stylish animal like the truffle dog instead of the pig became the new trend.
Between the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century., Sovereign Italian Vittorio Amedeo II and Carlo Emanuele III took delight in organizing real collecting jokes.
An interesting episode concerns a truffle expedition in 1751, organized by Carlo Emanuele III at the Royal House of England. During the day, several truffles were found, but they were extremely lower value than those of Piedmont.
During his political activities, Count Camillo Benso di Cavour used the truffle as a means diplomat; the composer Gioacchino Rossini called it “The Mozart of mushrooms”, while Lord Byron kept one on his desk because the scent help him awaken his creativity. Last one, Alexandre Dumas called it the Sancta Sanctorum of the table.
In 1780 the first book about the White Truffle of Alba was published in Milan, baptized with the name of Tuber magnatum Pico (Magnatum – i.e. the “Tycoons”, for poor people, while Pico refers to the Piedmontese Vittorio Pico, the first scholar who took care of its classification).
In 1831, a botanical garden naturalist of Pavia, Dr. Carlo Vittadini, published in Milan, “Monographia Tuberacearum”, the first work that laid the foundation of IDNOLOGIA, the science that deals with the study of truffles, describing 51 different species.
The study of underground fungi was later deepened by Italian researchers and currently in Italy, especially in Piedmont, where reside the best study centers.
Today we have the opportunity to cultivate truffles
In the era of globalization it was inevitable that it would open new horizons for truffle sales and thus new markets, which is why the demand for this funfus has come to abundantly exceed supply: this required a greater production.
The cultivation of truffles in Italy began in the mid-eighties of the last century, however, it limited only to certain species: the black truffle, the scorzone truffle, the uncinatum truffle and brumale truffles.
Thanks to those early systems the truffle cultivation started a significant business over the years, allowing companies not only to achieve concrete economic results, but also to improve growing techniques due to early mistakes.
Today the sale of truffles becomes more and more a niche sector, since the birth of the fungus depends on many atmospheric agents that the man can not control, even through the direct cultivation.