Black truffle is actually the outer fruiting body of underground ascomycete fungi, primarily one of the species of the genus Aspergillus. Also known as black mushrooms, this fungal organism can grow on wood, bark, or stems of trees. Although this description of the fungi may sound somewhat exotic to the non-worm lover, it is quite common among soil-dwelling fungi. Moreover, the name "truffle" has historically been applied to the entire Latin word, "truffle," which means or half a plant, so this fungus may well be a "root" type of fungi.
A black truffle has a moderately large seed. Unlike most truffles, however, black truffle seeds are relatively small in size, measuring only from two to five millimeters in diameter. Because of their size, black truffle sea salt is also known as "bird's nest" or "chicken feather." The smaller seed is usually broken off before eating.
Since fungi often grow together in groups, fungi that typically grow together in nature are also said to have co-operative relationships. This is probably not true of all fungi, but it is certainly the case with black truffle salt. Among other things, these fungi apparently share a need for a suitable temperature in order to grow well. While most fungi will do well in a dark room, some species of Aspergillus do best when the humidity is low, perhaps due to the location of its spores in nature.
It seems, therefore, that black truffle salt may have another benefit besides being an exceptional culinary herb. In fact, black truffle salt has been used as a food seasoning in some parts of the world for hundreds of years. Even today, in places where oregano and other traditional herbs are grown, black truffle salt is sometimes added to food.
Because the seeds of black truffle salt contain theobromine, a substance that can have a sedative effect, it has been used in a number of health products. One example is a dietary supplement designed to help people lose weight. Other uses include treating insomnia and curing excessive appetite, as well as treating depression and anxiety.
Historically, the seeds were thought to be highly poisonous. However, they are now known to contain healthy amounts of iron, which is essential to human health. In fact, black truffle salt was once highly prized because of its high iron content. Today, however, black truffle salt is not so highly valued. This is probably due to the fact that it is not so easy to harvest the nuts from the trees. The black truffle must be either gathered by hand or sprayed with insecticide to discourage pests.
Black truffles are produced only by allowing the nuts to mature in their shell, which can take from three months to a year. Once the nuts have matured, they must be either air-dried or put in a freezer to dry out completely. The seeds will then need to be either ground or crushed into fine dust to use in a recipe. Some varieties of black truffle can be used in place of Semillon or place in some recipes. These nuts also make a good alternative for nutmeg, as they are milder in taste. In fact, black truffle is often substituted for nutmeg when cooking.
Although the black truffle salt has become a somewhat generic name, it actually comes from two specific places. The name comes from the French word "truffle" (a small round stone) and the Swiss word "truffle" (as small as a grain of sand). It is said the first name came from a pastry called "truffle" found in the French Alps, while the second was actually taken from a dish called "truffles" that the Venetian chef, Giooru Panenthe, would prepare for his family. Today the two words have become synonymous, although the original dish may have been named elsewhere. There is no doubt that black truffle salt is a wonderfully versatile seasoning blend.