Truffles as an aphrodisiac

truffles aphrodisiac
The true truffles are a group of several valuable and highly sought-after edible species of underground ascomycetes belonging to the fungal genus Tuber. All are ectomycorrhizal and are therefore found in close association with trees.

The ascoma (fruiting body) of truffles is highly prized as food. It has a smell similar to deep-fried sunflower seeds or walnuts, though not all people are able to catch the odor of this fungus. The water after soaking truffles can taste a bit like soy sauce. Brillat-Savarin called the truffle "the diamond of the kitchen" and praised its aphrodisiacal powers.

While the aphrodisiacal characteristics of truffles have not been established, it is still held in high esteem in traditional French, northern Italian and Istrian cooking, and in international haute cuisine.

Strictly speaking, the true truffles are those several species of the genus Tuber; however the term has been applied to several other genera of underground fungi around the world. These include the genera Terfezia and Tirmania of the family Terfeziaceae, known as the Desert truffles of Africa and the Middle East. The term "Hart's truffle" has been used to refer to Elaphomyces while "Bohemian truffle" has been used to describe Pisolithus tinctorius, which was historically eaten in parts of Germany.

True truffles form symbiotic relationships with several varieties of deciduous trees, including oak, beech, hazel and poplar, but cannot be found on maples or on cedars. They flourish throughout the fall, winter and spring, and can be found buried between the fallen leaves and twigs and the mineral soil.

Their growth beneath the earth's surface is thought to be an adaptation to forest fires, drought, or severe cold, where the mushrooms on the surface of the soil are more prone to getting destroyed.

The origin of the word truffle appears to lie in the Latin term tuber, meaning "lump" or "truffle", which early on became tufer- and gave rise to the various European terms: French Truffe, Spanish Trufa, German Trüffel and Dutch Truffel. Interestingly the Italian tartufo and Piedmontese tartifla suggest an affinity with the German Kartoffel "potato".

For as long as truffles have been collected -- nearly 4,000 years -- they have held us in their spell. Their extravagant history as inducers of romance and as the pinnacle of haute cuisine began when the ancients attributed them with magical powers. Not knowing what to make of them, sages identified truffles as calluses of the earth, the product of lightening striking the ground, the children of the gods, or things that grew from the spit of witches.

Babylonian royals were partial to truffles wrapped in papyrus and roasted in ashes. The chefs of Egyptian pharaohs embellished dishes with them. They won rave reviews from the likes of Pythagoras and Theophrastus.

But “truffle-mania” really took off when the Greeks introduced them to the Romans, Cicero, Pliny, and Plutarch classified them as aphrodisiacs, inspiring their country men, characteristically, to take pleasures to extremes.

It is narrated in Sahih Muslim (sayings of Muhammad) that Muhammad (P.B.U.H) said 'Truffles are (a kind of) 'Manna' which Allah (Arabic, God), the Exalted the Majestic, sent to the people of Israel through [Moses], and its juice is a medicine for the eyes.
-Sahih Muslim, Book 23, Chapter 27, Hadiths5084-5089.

The fall of Roman civilization prompted the tubers' near oblivion from historical records for 1,000 years. In the Middle Ages, truffles were rarely used and monks were prohibited from eating truffles because it was probably considered satanic possessing the power to make them forget their calling and get "hot under the frock" for medieval maidens.

The long embargo on the forbidden fungi ceased with the Renaissance. François I surrendered to their charms and made them a favorite delicacy at sumptuous banquets at Fontainebleau. Louis XIV commissioned the first research devoted to cultivating them. Truffles were very popular in Paris markets in the 1780s, imported seasonally from truffle grounds, where peasants had long enjoyed their secret. They were so expensive they appeared only at the dinner tables of great nobles —and kept women. The greatest delicacy was a truffled turkey. But not until the early 1800s, when Brillat-Savarin, a brilliant gastronome, spread the word that truffles should be cooked for their own gastronomical merits, did they get the attention they deserved:
"Truffle. As soon as the word is spoken, it awakens lustful and erotic memories among the skirt-wearing sex and erotic and lustful memories among the beard-wearing sex. This honorable parallelism comes not only from the fact that this esteemed tuber is delicious, but also because it is still believed to bring about potency, the exercise of which brings sweet pleasure."

Jean-Anthelme Savarin, 1825
The dawn of the golden age of the truffle -- when annual production reached almost 2,000 tons in the late 19th century and Périgoridans gorged on the tubers as if they were turnips-soon faded to dusk. World War I took the lives of so many peasants that survivors had to turn their attention from truffles to staple crops. By World War II, yearly harvests had plunged to 400 tons. A postwar exodus from the country side left most truffières derelict. Production hit bottom in the 1960s.

It has been said that the truffle is not exactly an aphrodisiac, but it tends to make women more tender and men more likeable. The appeal of truffles is undeniable. These mysterious mushrooms are as elusive as they are captivating, hunted in the foggy mornings, as trufficulteurs delve deeply into the dark forest in the silence of the frosty winter dawns. There is something unquestionably exotic and seductive about the truffle, and for many centuries – and even today- it was attributed aphrodisiac qualities. In the highest of social circles, gourmet truffles were highly coveted and consumed to enhance the amorous experience; even the great Napoleon submitted its sensuous charms, as well as the infamous Marquis de Sade, who fed it to his paramours to entice them into the throes of passion. In Renaissance Italy, it was rumored that Lucrezia Borgia and Catarina de Medici were downright addicted to the victual.

These days, science has helped shed some light (albeit if somewhat diminishing the mystique) over the intensely erotic status of gourmet truffles, which also helps explain why traditionally boars have been the man’s best friend in the search of truffles. Truffles contain alpha-androstenol, the equivalent of boar’s pheromones, which appears to attract the animal to the mushroom, indicating truffle-hunters as to the location (today the weight of the boar limits its use in modern “truffi-culture”, so highly-trained dogs are used). Pheromones are also found in humans – our bodies release them during perspiration, contributing to the musky scent of body odor, and are intricately related to physical attraction and arousal, thereby explaining somewhat the truffle’s erotic reputation. However magical and sensual it might seem, the truffle has other positive and even therapeutic characteristics. It is very nutritious, and low in fat. It is composed mainly of water, and has a high protein and mineral content (including calcium and magnesium). So it’s delicious, and good for you!


  1. Though it borders on poor taste, I'd venture to say that the alleged aphrodisiacal qualities of the true truffle have a great deal to do with the truffles, shall we say, sexual aromas...

    Just a thought...


  2. nepspeed821/8/08, 5:47 AM

    I haven't tasted, seen, nor have i eaten any truffles in my life except for chocolate truffles so i have no means of confirming your thought.

    Welcome to my blog by the way.