Desert truffle (funghi)

The desert truffle is a species of truffle-like fungi in genus Choiromyces (Choiromyces aboriginum). It is native to dry areas of Australia. Its shape is spherical and is about 7 centimetres in diameter. The truffle is white and juicy when young, but becomes yellow and wrinkled with maturity. Its consistency is rather soft and the taste is bland.

The desert truffle is a much sought after food in Central Australia, although it is difficult to find and is very rare, being found only on red sandy areas overlying limestone. Once found in relative abundance, but in a very limited range of locations, it is now very rare. Introduction of rabbits, which predate heavily on the plants and changes in burning practices have led to the near extinction of this important food.

The land management techniques practiced by indigenous people for thousands of years indeed involve fire, an element that has a crucial role in many aspects of these communities’ lives (environmental, social, cultural, spiritual…). Using controlled fires, a knowledge that is gradually lost, enabled for example to prevent hot incontrollable wildfires to develop, and helped biodiversity and the land to regenerate.

The desert truffles were used as a source of water. They can be eaten raw, but are usually roasted in hot sand and ashes for over an hour before being consumed. If collected fresh, a large quantity of drinkable water can be squeezed from them, making them a very useful plant, providing both food and water.

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