Just tasted my first Terfez (Terfezia sps)

Moselio Schaechter mschaech at sunstroke.sdsu.edu
Fri Mar 22 04:21:45 EST 2002


May I be so bold as to quote from my book:

"In North Africa and the Middle East, places not known for mushrooms, there
are yet other kinds of highly edible truffles whose widespread use is not
often recognized elsewhere. The most widely collected one is the ³desert
truffle,² or terfez (Terfezia leonis and others), which grows abundantly in
sandy soils and is frequently sold in local markets throughout the Golden
Crescent, from Morocco to Iraq. I had the opportunity to try desert truffles
on a trip to Israel. My hosts were of Moroccan origin, but I didn¹t know at
the time if these mushrooms are found as far west as Morocco. I took a
chance and asked if they knew desert truffles, to which they
enthusiastically replied, ³Ah, terfez!² Not only that, they took from the
freezer a pot containing two or three pounds of what in color and texture
looked very much like quartered, medium-sized potatoes. In a dish prepared
with a light tomato sauce, the distinctively aromatic flavor of the terfez
stood out. The taste was delicate, not pungent like that of the French or
Italian truffles, but I found it most pleasant nonetheless.
    I had previously read that people in Iraq used to look for terfez by
rubbing their big toe over the dry ground to find areas that felt harder
than the rest. What makes this digital exploration possible is that terfez
grow near the surface of the ground and not at the depths of the ³classic,²
forest-dwelling truffles. As my Israeli hosts told me, the technique is used
in Morocco as well. Unlike the French or Italian truffles, terfez are
collected and eaten in large amounts over a vast region. It seems unfair
that this important food source gets little play in most western books and
articles about edible mushrooms."

Elio Schaechter

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