Just tasted my first Terfez (Terfezia sps)

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Thu Mar 21 04:26:00 EST 2002

For most people, the subject of this thread will mean nothing unless
you realize that Terfezia (called Terfaz in Bedoin) are Dessert
Truffles, found in Africa, Japan, the United States, and some parts of
southern Europe, including Spain.

I understand that there are at least 50 different species, many
associated with specific species of Acacia and Cistus.

While I first learned of them in the North American Truffling Society,
I first *heard* of them through a friend who spent several years in
Saudi Arabia. Madeleine Albright was recently given over 50 pounds of
an especially prized species, but didn't know what they were.

Here's a hint: when Pliny the elder was talking about truffles, he
probably meant Terfezia, _not_ Tuber as is often misinterpreted.

I just received a sample of perhaps 8-12 ounces of Terfezia sps. from
Morocco. They were sent 14 days ago, and languished in quarantine
somewhere in the U.S. under the auspices of FedEx, even though I told
the FedEx representative that the material was a biological sample for
identification, and not for re-sale.

Tonight, I sampled some for the first time. The material was gritty,
and I thought the grit may have been a king of preservative. Also, the
package contained some truffles which had rice grains still attached
to them. Perhaps there was rice in the original package, which might
have required quarantine from outside the US.

The grit was actually just that: fine sand. A few crunchy mouthfuls
later (had them thin-sliced on pepperoni/sausage pizza) I was trying
to identify how to describe the taste: nutty, a little sweet
(surprise!), and rather addictive. The aroma is similar to nuts
(peanuts? cashews? pistachios?), with elements of butter, wine, and a
little garlic. While it may not sound particularly appetizing at
first, it rapidly grew on me.

I'm interested in hearing of any one else's experience with Terfezias.
How were they prepared? Did you like them? What do you remember them
tasting like?

Many people consider only Tubers to be true truffles. In France, it is
illegal to represent anything but Tuber species as truffles. But in
science, truffles are all members of the fungal family Tuberales. That
includes a much wider group of fungi than just Tuber species, and
certainly includes the Terfaz.

My friend, who has since died, told me she had Terfaz roasted in ashes
like potatoes. She indicated some where nearly the size of Idaho
Russet potatoes, but had a taste that, while difficult to describe,
was quite nice and a pleasant change from *typical* Saudi food.

With only one taste, I think I'm an addict.

Daniel B. Wheeler

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