Tuesday, May 20, 2008


We very well know most of the starchy tubers, such as sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), yam (discorea), potato (sulanum tuberosum), to name a few, but not so many are familiar with truffles, especially the desert truffles. What are truffles? They are species of the mushroom family, and are distantly related to the more pungent and costly European truffles. Numerous varieties grow from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, but the desert of Syria and Iraq produces two main types, known by the Arabic name, “kamah” or "fagah".

Truffles are the valuable and sought-after, edible fruting bodies of a group subterranean ascomycete species from the fungal genus tuber. They are highly prized as a food, their smell has been described as similar to deep-fried sunflower seeds or walnuts. They spring from microscopic spores distributed just underneath the surface of the sand. The Arabs are saying that lightning triggers a chemical reaction that makes the accompanying rain rich in nitrogen compounds, which prompt the truffles to grow. Without thunderstorms, they do not appear. The Bedouins call them “the potatoes of thunder”.

As they reach the size of golf balls, they begin to crack the surface of sand, appearing as a field of bumps across the desert. The cracks indicate that truffles lie just beneath the surface. If the truffles are not dug up during the few weeks of winter rains, they pop up onto the surface and burst once the sand dries out.

Desert truffles …. are they the Biblical manna from heaven?


EdwinL said...

This is really a very expensive desert tuber. Do you still remember Aziz, our friend from Qatif? He used to brag about this "fagah". Have you tried it?

Noman said...

My Saudi colleagues are so proud of fagah. A kilo amounts to SR1,000+. They always look forward for the monsoon rain in the months of December and January to be able to harvest as many fagah. It's a valued tuber for them.

G@ttoGiallo, the Instigator said...

And the most expensive come from Alba, in Piedmont, see http://italianfood.about.com/library/rec/blalba.htm
near the place where I was born... yum!!!

Monching said...

Our sweet potato tastes better, what do you think?