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Microbes’ role in truffle scents not trifling

Partnership helps give prized mushrooms their potent and pricy perfume, scientists suggest

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1:30pm, July 27, 2015
truffles

SIGNATURE SCENT  By compiling and reanalyzing data, researchers now think that truffles, like this Italian white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico), get their knock-your-socks-off smells with the help of their microbes.

Truffles, the homely fungal celebrities of the culinary world, have unseen help concocting their prized — and pricey — aromas.

Microbes that inhabit the subterranean mushrooms probably produce key chemicals that make truffles smell like truffles, according to a new analysis appearing online July 17 in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

Certain microbes may help brew the signature scents that distinguish one truffle species from another, the authors suggest.The pleasant-smelling partners may also explain fluctuating fragrance within individual truffle species.

“There is big variability from season to season, from place to place,” says study coauthor Richard Splivallo, a chemist at Goethe University Frankfurt. A truffle species’ scent can change in both character and intensity, swaying prices that can reach thousands of dollars per kilogram.

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