Samui Wining & Dining

Are truffles the aphrodisiac they're made out to be?


13Legend has it, that the first creature on earth to devour truffles was a female wild boar. A farmer observed the sow dig up and devour the (what he thought to be) poisonous underground fungi, and awaited her imminent death. Instead, she became consumed by passion, as if in a cheap Mills & Boon novel, attracting so many lovesick suitors that he witnessed bacon in the making, so to speak. The childless farmer, hoping for the same results himself, sampled the magical tuber, giving rise (ahem) to a brood of 13 children.

    Legend aside, do these rare fungi really have aphrodisiac properties? Apparently, Napoleon ate truffles to increase his masculine potency. In fact, the term 'Napoleonic Friendship' refers to the French Revolution's emphasis on military fraternity evolving into an unprecedented sense of camaraderie among soldiers in the armies of Napoleon. For many soldiers, the hardships of combat led to intimate friendships. Perhaps this dynamite-comes-in-small-packages leader should have left the truffles out of the galley and mess hall!

      Today, it's generally accepted that a large part of truffles' allure is their rarity. Technically fungi with a symbiotic relationship to certain tree roots, they're only found in a handful of places around the world. And although their scent can be one of the most alluring aphrodisiacs to the human sense of smell, our inferior noses are unable to detect these culinary treasures growing underground. That's why we’ve employed pigs and dogs, with their sharp noses, for centuries to help us in the search for them. And it also helps explain their hefty price tag. Female pigs are natural truffle hunters – remember the story of the passionate pig that discovered truffles after getting a whiff of them? The scent is extremely similar to male, both pig and human, pheromones. This is the reason modern science believes truffles are so successful as an aphrodisiac.

       It was once believed that truffles grew where lightning struck the ground. Well, we now know that's not true, and their underground growth is due to adaptation to forest fires, as well as severe cold and drought. While mushrooms above the earth’s surface tend to be destroyed in such conditions, tubers such as truffles keep growing under the surface. These hidden treasures, literally worth their weight in gold, are highly prized as a food. In fact, they're often referred to as 'the diamonds of the kitchen' due to their rarity and price. Edible truffles are a delicacy in Middle Eastern, French, Spanish, Northern Italian and Greek cooking, and are used to flavour international haute cuisine.

      Others in history have spoken of the truffle's aphrodisiac properties, and Jean-Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, who died in 1826 and is considered by some to be the greatest food critic ever, had some interesting thoughts on it. As well as being the one who can be credited with branding truffles 'diamonds of the kitchen', he also said, “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 honourable 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.” Some say the aroma of a truffle resembles that of fried sunflower seeds or walnut. And soaked in water, it gives a taste similar to soy sauce. Its flavour is musty and earthy and adds a depth to ordinary ingredients. The best way to get the most out of this exotic ingredient is to use it infused with quality Italian olive oil to make its exotic flavour go further. There are many ways of using this prized tuber, and it's suggested that keeping it overnight with rice or eggs in a tight jar transfers its flavour and benefits.

      While both white and black truffles have aphrodisiac properties, the rarer black variety is more potent, as well as having a richer flavour. The scientific community argues that perhaps it's the high concentration of protein that gives it aphrodisiac tendencies. Perhaps it's a combination of exotic aroma and the phallic shape, as well as the expense, that causes hearts and, well, other parts, to flutter.

      So where can you find real truffles on Samui? Well, Truffles Exclusive Samui is the sole representative of Sabatino Tartufi – arguably the best Italian truffles. Claudio Cerquetti represents the company on Samui. And, as it happens, his family has been ‘farming’ truffles in the region of Umbria since 1911. They work closely with the Sabatino Tartufi company, and for years the family has been keen for Claudio to act as their ambassador in Thailand – pressing him to go about establishing an outlet for the company and its products.

      All products distributed by Truffles Exclusive are 100% organic and approved by FDA and USDA. To earn the revered 'USDA certified organic' from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, organic food must be produced by farmers who emphasize the use of renewable resources and the conservation of soil and water to enhance environmental quality for future generations. They need to farm without using pesticides, fertilizers made with synthetic ingredients, growth hormones, irradiation, antibiotics, artificial ingredients and genetic engineering. Before a product can be labelled 'organic', a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Be careful, as some retailers sell Chinese truffles with chemicals added, and are considered by the organic food enthusiasts to even be harmful to our health.

      Whether you believe in this rare tuber's aphrodisiac qualities or not, with St. Valentine's Day upon us, some of us need all the help we can get in 'jump-starting' electricity with that special someone.


Rosanne Turner


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