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The truffle history - 1600 B.C to1600

The first testimonies come from the diet of the Sumerian people and from the time of Jacob the Patriarch, around 1600 – 1700 B.C.

The ancient Greeks called it Hydnon (from which “hydnology” is derived, that is the science of the truffle) or Idra, the Latin people called it “Tuber”, from the verb “tumere” (=to swell) the Arabs “Ramech Alchamech Tufus” or “Tomer” and “Kemas”, the Spaniards called it “Turma de tierra” or “Cadilla de tierra”, the French “Truffe” (derived from the meaning fraud, linked with the play by Molière “Tartuffe” in 1664), the English “Truffle” and the Germans “Hirstbrunst” or “Trüffel”.

The ancient Sumerians used the truffle by mixing it with other vegetables such as barley, chick peas, lentils and mustard, while the ancient Athenians adored it so much that they conferred citizenship upon Cherippo’s sons, for inventing a new recipe.

Plutarch maintained that the origin of the “Tubero” lays in the combined action of water, heat and forked lightning. Similar theories were shared or contested by (amongst the most noted) Pliny, Martial, Juvenal and Galen which resulted only in generating lengthy arguments on the subject.

Most likely the “tuber terrae” of the past were not the perfumed truffles we know today, but the “terfezia Leanis” (Terfezia Arenaria) variety or similar species. These varieties were more abundant, in North Africa and West Asia compared to nowadays, reaching a weight of three to four kilos; they were highly appreciated (to the extent of being called “food of the gods”) since other tubers like the potato and Jerusalem artichoke from the Americas, were virtually unknown at that time.

Even though Rome had as an emperor Publio Elvio Pertinace, from Alba, the “Tuber magnatum Pico” never became part of the refined Roman recipes.

Truffles which delighted the palates of the patrician Romans, although very expensive they were lacking quality, so much so that Apicius included six truffle recipes in his “De Re Coquinaria” Book VII, citing the most expensive dishes.

Meanwhile, studies on the truffles proliferated. Pliny the Elder called it “callus of the earth” while Juvenal was so infatuated that he said “I would rather have corn failing than the truffle”. Throughout the Middle Ages truffle had no place at man’s frugal table but remained instead the fodder for wolves, foxes, badgers, pigs, wild boar and rats. 

When the Renaissance era saw the revival of good culinary taste ruffle began to take pride on a plate. The prized truffles appeared at the tables of French lords in the XIV and XV centuries, while in that period in Italy the white truffle was becoming established.

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