Truffles, a delicacy we’ve all heard of but few of us can afford to consume. Before you even begin to get to the rest of this article there are some common misconceptions that have to dispel: when we’re talking about truffles we aren’t talking about those delicious, round chocolate balls (sorry if you came here for that), but instead, we’re talking about the mushrooms and what makes them so expensive.
What are truffles?
Truffles are a fungi, like the shiitake mushrooms you enjoy in your stirfry or the mushrooms you get on your pizza. Truffles and other varieties of mushrooms are one and the same. However, truffles are typically found underground while the mushrooms we all love and enjoy are found aboveground. This forces us to rely on animals to dig and find these delicious treasures, consume their sacs of spores and then distribute them through surrounding areas through…their feces. You read that correctly, almost all the truffles that we harvest come from animal feces. So if that made you never want to consume another truffle in your life, that just leaves more for the rest of us.
In the past, hunters used to use wild pigs in order to harvest truffles. Why? Because truffles contain a chemical called androstenol, it’s a sex hormone that functions as a sort of aphrodisiac for animals that causes them to be attracted to the source of the scent.
Nowadays, hunters tend to use dogs in order to acquire truffles, because dogs are more easier to transport in the back of a truck and they have a better sense of smell than other animals.
Why are truffles expensive?
Now to get to the real questions, why are truffles so expensive? Is it the amount of work that goes into getting them that makes the cost so high? Is it the availability of the fungi around the year? If you guessed the latter, then you’re correct. The reason truffles are so expensive is due to their scarcity. Truffles are a hard and time-consuming delicacy to find. Especially as they only grow in a few places in Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia. Not to mention there’s only a limited time during the day, dusk or dawn, when dogs are able to go out and scavenge for these delicacies.
So while truffles are a rare delicacy, it should come as no surprise that they’re expensive. But how expensive can they get? In 2016, a truffle weighing 4.16 pounds fetched a whopping price of $61, 250. And to make matters even more interesting, the price wasn’t what the truffle of such a size would usually fetch as rain in Italy during the season had dropped the price of such a truffle by a whole 50% of its total cost.
So while truffles are an interesting delicacy, their scarcity worldwide and the fact that they only grown in a few locations worldwide, making them a very expensive item to eat for dinner.