Truffles are commonly misunderstood to not be mushrooms because they grow underground and have other odd features, but this is incorrect. Truffles are technically mushrooms due to their spore bearing properties.
Are Truffles Mushrooms?
A truffle can generally be considered a type of mushroom under a definition that considers any spore bearing fruiting body of a fungi a mushroom. Under this definition, since a truffle is a fruiting body of a fungi, it can generally be considered a mushroom. This is generally true even though truffles grow below ground and don’t have a prominent stem or spore bearing surface like most other mushrooms. With that said, an argument can be made that truffles are not mushrooms and that not all fruiting bodies of fungi are mushrooms. For “true truffles” specifically, the argument says that since their spores grow on the inside (and require the truffle to be eaten to spread) that true truffles aren’t mushrooms. We will explore this logic below.
TIP: As we point out below, the little chocolates that are called truffles are just fancy chocolates, they have nothing to do with fungus and aren’t mushrooms. That one is simple, the technicalities of the true truffle, not as much.
Are All Truffles Mushrooms? – Are Both True and False Truffles Mushrooms Botanically Speaking?
With the above said, fungi is a large kingdom the includes molds, yeasts, and other non-mushrooms, and it is debatable whether we can truly refer to all truffles as mushrooms botanically speaking. Here is that logic applied to true and false truffles:
- True truffles are a fungi from the phylum ascomycota (morels are also in this group), the fruiting bodies ascomycota are called ascocarps.
- Meanwhile, false truffles are basidiomycota (coral mushrooms and other mushrooms are in this group).
- Some have claimed that “true truffles” aren’t mushrooms because they bear their spores on the inside rather than outside (unlike false truffles). Under this definition true “ascomycota” truffles would not be mushrooms, but false “basidiomycota” truffles would be.
- The question is, “is an edible subterranean fungus from the genus tuber, the order pezizales, the phylum ascomycota, and the kingdom Fungi, that acts as a mushroom culinarily a mushroom?”
Why Truffles are Technically Mushrooms
Despite some confusion over the topic due to the truffle growing underground (most mushrooms grow above ground and their below ground parts are fungus, but not mushrooms), not having a prominent stem or open spore bearing surface on the outside (most mushrooms do), and accomplishing its reproduction through being eaten by animals that eat fungi (most above ground mushrooms spread their spores through the air) the truffle is still arguably a mushroom (because of its fruiting, AKA spore bearing, body).
What is a Fruiting Body?
The trick to understanding this is that fungus is plant-like in how they look and how they are named. The part that fruits (the reproductive part that dispenses spores) is the mushroom, the other parts are fungi (like a stem that grows below ground), but not mushroom. This is like how the green part of plants (the part that isn’t the fruit and flower like the stem and leaves) is vegetable and the fruiting part (seed bearing part that flowers) is fruit.
FACT: All mushrooms are fungi, but not all fungi mushrooms. Types of fungi that aren’t mushrooms include the non-fruiting parts of mushrooms, yeast, mildew, and mold.World’s Most Prized Fungus aka Truffles – Why Would You Eat That?
Types of Truffles
Truffles come in two general types the black truffle and white truffle (and chocolate truffles which have no relation). Both grow in different parts of the world and have different flavors. Because truffles grow underground, they can be hard to find and therefore fetch a high price. Given their pungent taste, which is a bit like garlic, and their rarity, it is common to use truffle as shavings or oil in fine dining. No one eats a whole truffle in one sitting except truffle hogs. Truffles are used for flavor and as garnishes.
FACT: A truffle is the fruiting body of a subterranean Ascomycete fungus (ascomycete is the largest phylum of Fungi, with over 64,000 species).
FACT: European white truffles can sell for as much as $3,600 a pound, making them and their fellow fungi the most expensive food in the world. One two-pound truffle recently sold for more than $300,000.
FACT: Morels, truffles, and the lobster mushroom are other sought after fungal delicacies.Truffles: The Most Expensive Food in the World.
Are Chocolate Truffles Mushrooms?
Little chocolates are sometimes called truffles, but this is just a name given to fancy chocolates (as truffles are expensive and rare). Chocolate truffles have no relation to the fungus truffle beyond their name.
TIP: The fungal truffle is rare because it is buried underground and hard to find. That is where the dogs and hogs come in.
Do Pigs Sniff for Truffles?
Truffle hogs (pigs) and truffle dogs both sniff for well hidden truffles that grow underground. Hogs, unlike dogs, naturally sniff for truffles. The only problem with truffle hogs is that they love to eat the truffles once they find them.
|Truffle hog||Truffle dog|
|Keen sense of smell||Keen sense of smell|
|Innate ability to sniff out truffles||Must be trained|
|Tendency to eat truffles once found||Easier to control|