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The name "Truffle" indicates some underground mushrooms (hypogea) of the Ascomycetes class, known and appreciated since ancient times for their gastronomic characteristics.


The name "Talia" from the philosopher Plutarch of Cheronea who supported the hypothesis according to which truffles were generated by the combination of water, fire and lightning thrown by Zeus near an oak tree. The mystery of their nature has for centuries been the subject of disputes between philosophers and scientists, who have advanced the most disparate hypotheses to explain their origin and justify their presence in the ground.


Theophrastus, a Greek thinker of 300 BC, said that they were rootless vegetables that were born during the autumn rains accompanied by thunder. Cicero considered them children of the earth and the great naturalist Pliny the Elder considered them "stickiness" of the soil and miracles of nature. The scholars of the time indulged in establishing the origin of the tasty tuber: the poet Juvenal, for example, traces it back to a thunderbolt thrown by Jupiter near an oak.


The first written records date back to 1600-1700 BC, at the time of the Sumerians and the patriarch Jacob. The ancient Sumerians used the truffle by mixing it with other vegetables such as barley, chickpeas, lentils and mustard, while it is said that the ancient Athenians adored it to the point of conferring citizenship on the children of Cherippo, for having invented a new recipe.

Plutarch ventured the somewhat original assertion that the "tuber" was born from the combined action of water, heat and lightning. Similar theories, shared or contested also by Pliny, Martial, Juvenal and Galen, had the sole result of generating long diatribes.

Most likely their "tuber terrae" was not the fragrant truffle we are dealing with today, but the "terfezia Leanis" (Terfezia Arenaria) or similar species. They abounded, then more than today, in Northern Africa and Western 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"), since at that time the tubers of American origin, such as potatoes and tapinambur, were completely unknown.

The Tuber magnatum Pico never became part of the highly refined Roman recipes, although Rome also had an Albese citizen, Publio Elvio Pertinace, as its emperor. The truffles that delighted the palates of the Roman patricians were poor only in quality, because, as far as the price was concerned, this was very salty.

The writer Apicius in his “De Re Coquinaria” inserted six recipes with truffles in the VII book, the one that dealt with the most expensive dishes. Meanwhile, the studies on the truffle multiplied. Pliny the Elder called it "callus of the earth", while Juvenal became infatuated to the point of affirming that "it was preferable to lack wheat rather than truffles".

The truffle avoided the frugal tables of man throughout the Middle Ages and remained the food of wolves, foxes, badgers, pigs, wild boars and mice. The Renaissance relaunched the taste of good food and the truffle set off to conquer the first place among the most refined dishes. The prized black truffle appeared on the tables of French lords between the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, while in Italy at that time the white truffle was establishing itself.


In the 1700s, the Piedmontese truffle was considered a delicacy in all European courts. The search for truffles was a palace fun, so guests and foreign ambassadors visiting Turin were invited to attend. Hence perhaps the custom of using an elegant animal such as the dog for the search, instead of the pig, used above all in France.

Between the end of the seventeenth and the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Italian sovereigns Vittorio Amedeo II and Carlo Emanuele III delighted in organizing real gatherings. An interesting episode concerns an expedition of truffles which took place in 1751 and organized by Carlo Emanuele III at the Royal House of England. During the day, several truffles were found, but they were of extremely lower value than the Piedmontese ones.

Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, during his political activity, used the truffle as a diplomatic means, the composer Gioacchino Rossini called it "The Mozart of mushrooms", while Lord Byron kept it on his desk so that the perfume would help him to arouse his creativity and Alexandre Dumas called it the Sancta Santorum of the table.

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