Via Brad deLong, a report by Nicholas Wade for the NYT that determined hunter-gatherers, in the shape of Dr Francis Martin of the University of Nancy, are at last making progress in domesticating the black truffle. DNA analysis has revealed that truffles need sex, contrary to the previous CW. So inoculation of oak tree roots may work better, assuming Dr. Martin can help you tell a girl truffle from a boy truffle.
Two more mycological insights to turn you off your expensive dinner.
The fungus’s major concern is to spread its spores, a matter of some technical difficulty for an organism that lives underground. So it produces the redolent odors that will compel surface dwellers of all kinds to search for it, eat it and distribute its spores after they have dined.
So modern human gourmets are a dead loss from the truffle´s point of view, since we gave up retiring behind an oak tree to recycle our waste constructively and instead sterilise it in giant sewage works.
Second, the added protein.
..There are the truffle flies which lay their eggs in the truffle. From the fungus’s perspective, the insects are just another way of spreading its spores. So it attracts them by releasing anisole and veratrole, two insect pheromones, when the truffle has reached maturity. Truffles can often be detected by looking for congregations of truffle flies.
Don’t the fly’s eggs and larvae degrade the edibility of the truffle? It seems the opposite is the case. “If collected at late maturation stages, the truffles will likely carry eggs and larvae — adding proteins and aroma to the truffle,” Dr. Martin said.