Taming the Truffle: The History, Lore, and Science of the Ultimate Mushroom
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Taming the Truffle: The History, Lore, and Science of the Ultimate Mushroom

by Ian R. Hall
     
 

Whether the world’s best truffles come from Piedmont or Périgord inspires impassioned debate, but the effects of dwindling supply and insatiable demand for the elusive mushroom are unquestionable: prices through the roof, intrigue and deception, and ever more intensive efforts to cultivate. As international mycologist Ian Hall and his colleagues

Overview

Whether the world’s best truffles come from Piedmont or Périgord inspires impassioned debate, but the effects of dwindling supply and insatiable demand for the elusive mushroom are unquestionable: prices through the roof, intrigue and deception, and ever more intensive efforts to cultivate. As international mycologist Ian Hall and his colleagues have written, “Attempts at taming the truffle, of ordering its growth and harvest, now span the globe, and there has been some success in unlocking the secrets of what French researchers have aptly referred to as la grande mystique.”
 
The secrets of when, how, and where to collect truffles have been passed from generation to generation since ancient times, but artificial cultivation remains the holy grail. Here, in the most comprehensive practical treatment of the gastronomic treasure to date, the art and science of the high-stakes pursuit come together. This extensively illustrated volume brings the latest research and decades of experience to enthusiasts and professionals alike, with coverage of the leading truffle areas including France, Italy, Spain, and Asia, and the newcomers: Australia, New Zealand, and the United States.
 
The authors leaven their enthusiasm and expertise with wry humor, exploring the history and newest techniques. They describe in detail the commercial species and their host plants, natural habitats, cultivation, and maintenance, pests and diseases, and harvesting with pigs, dogs, truffle flies, and even the electronic nose. Production in truffle plantations can begin after only three years, but often the rewards may take more than a decade. So there is plenty of time to read and prepare, and no better resource than this one.

Editorial Reviews

Wine Spectator
“The pleasure of truffles can be both gustatory and emotional; likewise, this book provides both substantial information and evocative folklore.”
— Owen Dugan
Fungi
“A beautiful book from start to finish (think coffee table book in appearance, but with meat to it). No mycophile or gastronome passing through a bookshop would walk past the cover without picking it up! And the book is filled with high-quality color photographs. The prose matches the elegant pictures nicely, even humorously at times, and takes the reader through the history of truffle hunting and cultivation ... Taming the Truffle would certainly attract all levels of mycologists from beginner through advanced, but it has the allure and witty prose to inveigle those who never imagined they could share out love and interest in fungi.”
Journal of the Botanical Research of Texas
“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a lovely luxurious book with many pictures and drawings. That the authors have a wonderful sense of humor is evident in the writing.”
Lavender

“The pleasure of truffles can be both gustatory and emotional; likewise, this book provides both substantial information and evocative folklore.”
Inoculum

“A beautiful book from start to finish (think coffee table book in appearance, but with meat to it). No mycophile or gastronome passing through a bookshop would walk past the cover without picking it up! And the book is filled with high-quality color photographs. The prose matches the elegant pictures nicely, even humorously at times, and takes the reader through the history of truffle hunting and cultivation ... Taming the Truffle would certainly attract all levels of mycologists from beginner through advanced, but it has the allure and witty prose to inveigle those who never imagined they could share out love and interest in fungi.”
Gastronomica

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a lovely luxurious book with many pictures and drawings. That the authors have a wonderful sense of humor is evident in the writing.”
Wine Spectator - Owen Dugan
“The pleasure of truffles can be both gustatory and emotional; likewise, this book provides both substantial information and evocative folklore.”
From the Publisher
“Aficionados, chefs, and cooking students can learn a lot here about these lords of the fungi realm.” —Booklist

“Even if you don’t crave growing truffles, this informative and highly readable book reveals the fascinating mysteries, lore, and biology of this ultimate food better than any other book in English. It is a paragon of science written for the interested layperson.” —Gastronomica

“The pleasure of truffles can be both gustatory and emotional; likewise, this book provides both substantial information and evocative folklore.” —Wine Spectator

“[The authors] reveal the state of the art and science of producing the ‘ultimate mushroom’ in a splendidly interesting and informative way. . . . This book is outstanding.” —Inoculum

“This fascinating, lavishly illustrated volume. . . will keep the reader engrossed through site preparations, irrigation methods—and, yes, the actual tasting of the truffle.” —Lavender

“Filled with high-quality color photographs. The prose matches the elegant pictures nicely, even humorously at times, and takes the reader through the history of truffle hunting and cultivation. . . . [It] would certainly attract all levels of mycologists from beginner through advanced, but it has the allure and witty prose to inveigle those who never imagined they could share our love and interest in fungi.” —Fungi

“A fascinating new book.” —Orange County Register

“You should buy this book. . . . It is pretty amazingly thoughtful and comprehensive and will surely become dirt-stained and probably also soiled by your truffle pig as you develop your empire. Really.” —Cornell Mushroom Blog

“I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is a lovely, luxurious book with many pictures and drawings. That the authors have a wonderful sense of humor is evident in the writing.” —Journal of the Botanical Research Institute of Texas
 

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780881928600
Publisher:
Timber Press, Incorporated
Publication date:
01/15/2008
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
1,296,495
Product dimensions:
6.38(w) x 9.33(h) x 0.94(d)

Read an Excerpt

From the Past Comes the Present
The early history of truffles can only be garnered from the often all too brief references ascribed to luminaries of the past, and it is likely these recorded comments referred to only three of the many edible truffles now known to exist throughout the world. Of the three, desert truffles (Eremiomyces, Kalaharituber, Terfezia, and Tirmania) are still prized in the Middle East, North Africa, and by the Bushmen of the Kalahari. However, it is the Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) of France and the Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum) that dominate today’s truffle world.
 
The harvesting and marketing of truffles is a world that retains some of the mystery and intrigue of the past, a world that could easily be mistaken for the realm of fiction, with its record of rivalry, skulduggery, and parochialism. Whether the world’s best truffles are found in Italy’s Piedmont or Périgord is fertile ground for debate, particularly between the Italians and French. But what cannot be debated is the global demand for both, a demand that cannot be met, one that pushes prices through the ceiling, encourages trade deception, and for nearly two centuries has fuelled efforts at cultivation.

The mystery of truffles that intrigued some of the great thinkers of the past is today occupying the research efforts of mycologists around the world. While fanciful theories have been replaced with sound scientific knowledge, the holy grail of truffle research—their artificial cultivation—is still problematic. Such is the interest in truffles, as well as their gastronomic and trade possibilities, that the focus of research has spread from the Périgord black truffle and the Italian white truffle to include a range of subterranean relations, several which are well regarded in culinary circles.

The Burgundy truffle (Tuber aestivum) has excellent gastronomic qualities, which has led to its successful cultivation in France. Being less fussy as to soil, host tree, and climate than its illustrious cousins, the Burgundy truffle is probably the most common edible truffle species in Europe. Tuber aestivum occurs naturally from the Mediterranean Basin in the south to the island of Gotland off the east coast of Sweden in the north and from the Atlantic coast in the west to an eastern European limit as yet undetermined. The Burgundy truffle has also been found in packs of truffles exported to Europe from China.
 
Several species of truffle, including the most important Tuber indicum, are traditional foods and are used as tonics by the Yi and Han people in China. Local names such as wu-niang teng (no mother plant) reflect the confusion of early European thinkers as to how truffles were formed. Generally, these and other Asiatic truffles have not received a good reception in the trade, despite exports to Europe increasing dramatically since the early 1990s.
 
Other truffles, such as Italy’s bianchetto (Tuber borchii), have important local markets. While only truly valued in Italy between Ferrara and Ravenna, bianchetto (whitish truffle), so called to distinguish it from the more expensive Tuber magnatum, has excellent culinary credentials and is gaining in gastronomic appreciation. In the United States and Canada, the garlic-odoured Oregon white truffle (Tuber gibbosum) is abundant in the Douglas fir forests that extend from San Francisco northward to British Columbia. This species is thought by some U.S. enthusiasts to be the equal of the European truffles. Such claims notwithstanding, the Périgord black truffle and the Italian white truffle remain pre-eminent.
 

Meet the Author

Gordon Brown holds undergraduate degrees in liberal arts and commerce from New Zealand’s University of Otago, and collaborated with Ian R. Hall on two previous books on the cultivation of truffles in New Zealand. Since 1991 Brown has been a sub-editor for the Otago Daily Times (Allied Press), and formerly he was the southern region journalist for the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF Technology). Brown has travelled extensively and witnessed first hand the turmoil in Southeast Asia in the early 1970s. He and his wife Erina run a proofreading and editing company, All Write NZ Ltd., which specializes in editing for Southeast Asian clients who speak English as a second language.
 

Ian R. Hall has traveled widely and his knowledge of mushroom cultivation is international in scope. His firm, Truffles & Mushrooms Consulting Ltd., aims to further the cultivation of edible ectomycorrhizal mushrooms. He also directs the activities of Symbiotic Systems N.Z. Ltd, a company that studies the beneficial effects of mycorrhizas in forestry. Hall has published on a variety of topics in addition to edible mushrooms and mycorrhizas, including the pathology of grasses oversown into tussock grasslands and greenhouse design. He completed his PhD at New Zealand's Otago University, where he studied with Geoff Baylis. After his post-doctoral fellowship with Jim Gerdemann at Illinois University, Hall returned to New Zealand to work as an applied mycologist and plant pathologist with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries (MAF Technology).

Alessandra Zambonelli is regarded as one of the foremost experts in Italy on truffles. After graduating with a PhD from the University of Bologna, she began conducting research in various aspects of plant pathology and truffles, and is now a professor teaching mycology and applied plant pathology there. Zambonelli has published numerous articles on truffles and their cultivation. She is the president of the Italian Mycological Association (Unione Micologica Italiana) which connects mycological groups from all regions of Italy.

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