Truffles are technically a form of fungus, meaning that they commonly grow in the wild in a similar way to mushrooms. Truffles, technically part of the Tuber genus of fungi, grow underground in a relationship with tree roots and can take years to reach the point seen in harvested truffles.
As mentioned, truffles are fungi, which are known for being natural decomposers. Mould is a form of fungi, perhaps the most obvious example of these organism’s growing qualities.
Truffles start as tiny spores clinging onto the roots of various tree species before growing with them until fruition. However, the tree root and the truffle fungi both work hand-in-hand for each other’s survival.
Truffles grow thanks to carbohydrates. However, many truffle species can’t produce these themselves, so they perform an exchange with their host plant.
In their early life, truffles stretch out in incredibly thin roots that allow it to explore the nearby soil for nutrients. The truffle can then pass these onto the plant, which has larger roots and is less capable of finding these ingredients. In return, the tree gives the truffle the carbohydrates required to grow.
Once a truffle has received enough nutrients from the host plant, it can begin to form what is known as the fruiting body, the familiar shape of culinary truffles. The fungi do this to produce spores to help it spread, but this also provides the wonderful food that has become famous throughout Italy.