The truffle is a an edible subterranean fungus, known since antiquity.
Truffles were firstly mentioned into the Naturalis historia (Natural History) written by Pliny The Elder. In the 1st century A.C., thanks to the Greek philosopher Plutarch from Cheronea, the idea that truffles derived from the combination of water, heat and thunders arose and inspired many poets. One of them, Juvenal, explained that the origins of truffle, at that time called tuber terrae, was due to a thunder thrown by Jupiter near an oak (a tree that was considered to be sacred to the king of the gods). Because of the fact that Jupiter was also well knows for his sexual activity, aphrodisiac properties have been always conferred to truffles.
There are also reports of its consumption as a food in the Sumerian period. They were used to mix it with barley, chickpeas, lentils and mustard to prepare a hearty dish.
Ancient Greeks were used to call it hydnon (from which “idnology”, that is the science of truffles) or Idra. Ancient Romans called it Tuber, from the verb tumere (blow up), the Arabs call it Ramech Alchamech Tufus orTomer and Kemas, the Spanish call itTurma de tierra or cadilla de tierra, the French use the term Truffe (deriving from the meaning of fraud, linked to the theatrical representation of Molière titled “Tartufe”, in 1664), the English have a similar term,Truffle and finally the German call it Hirstbrunst orTruffel.
During centuries truffle has acquired its role as an elite food item. In 18th century truffles from Piemonte were appreciated from all the European courts and truffle hunting was an entertainment for the aristocracy and foreign hosts and ambassadors were invite to attend.
Probably the use of dogs, graceful animals, for truffle hunting, started in that period. Between the end of 17th and the beginning of 18th century, Italian kings Vittorio Amedeo II and Carlo Emanuele III were used to organize real “truffle hunting trips”. In particular, one of their trips organized in 1751 by Carlo Emanuele II in the British Royal Family estate in the attempt to contaminate the British cuisine with the fragrance of truffles, led to the harvest of low value truffles if compared to those from Piemonte.
The history of truffles is interwined with many Italian historical figures, like Camillo Benso Count of Cavour, who was used to use truffles during diplomatic dinners or Gioacchino Rossini who loved it so much that he was used to calli t “the Mozart of mushrooms”. Among the European artists who deeply appreciated truffles we have to mention two eccentric figures: Lord Byron, who had always a truffle on his table so that its fragrance could stimulate his creativity and the writer Alexandre Dumas who defined truffle as the Sancta Sanctorum of food.
The good luck of truffles of our time started thanks to Giacomo Morra, hotel and restaurant manager from Alba (Piemonte). He understood that it was possible to make truffle a real cult object at an international level calling linking it to an event related to gastro-tourism.
It was 1929 when for the first time Giacomo Morra did his first attempt to promote truffles, called “Alba truffles”, participating to the Alba fair and exhibiting to the public the best truffles. He obtained in this way a so big success that he decided to constantly exhibit truffles during harvest festivals.
But Alba truffle is not the only one famous at a national level. In fact, in our region, Molise, since 70s there are many truffle hunters who go everyday harvesting truffles into the forests together with their friendly dogs.
Molisian territory is very rich in different varieties of truffles: Tuber aestivum (scorzone), Tuber Borchii (bianchetto), Tuber Brumale and Moscatum and the precious Tuber magnatum Pico, of which Molise is the first national producer.
Molisian truffle, especially the pregiate white one, is estimated to represent the 60% of the National production and results to be of higher quality and characterized by a better shape if compared to those of other regions. In recent years molisian truffles are obtaining many recognitions at a national and international level.