Terfezia, Tirmania or Tuber
The truffle is a fleshy edible fungus that grows underground, on or near the roots of trees. Its colour varies from shades of white, gray to black and it is recognised by its distinct strong aroma. There are many different types of truffle, the white variety has a creamy texture and a clean taste unlike the black one which has an earthy flavour similar to that of mushrooms and nuts but with a stronger aroma.
In Europe truffles are originally sniffed out by pigs due to the aroma they give off which is similar to that of the sex hormone found in boar saliva. Dogs are also trained to sniff them out as they do not eat the truffle upon finding them.
As for the desert truffles which the Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) was referring to (the Terfezia or Tirmania genus) then they do not require trained dogs or pigs to sniff them out. They grow close to the surface forming a distinct cracked mound noticeable to the trained eye. The Arabs call the truffle the ‘daughter of the thunder’ due to their growing after thunderstorms and scientists say that the yield of desert truffles is definitely related to the total rainfall and its distribution.
Among the other names used for the Truffle is Faga’ used in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf, Terfez used in Morocco and kam`a used in southern Iraq.
Evidence from the Sunnah
The Messenger of Allah (sallallaahu alayhi wa sallam) said: “The kam’ah (truffle) is from al-Manna (which is a food mentioned in the Quran, Surah al-Baqarah) and its water is a cure for the eye.” [Agreed Upon by al-Bukhari and Muslim]
The complete truffle is used after removing its outer skin.
Truffles have been a delicacy since ancient times. It is used in soups and gravies amongst the Arabs as well as being boiled in milk or water. The desert Arabs used it as a meat substitute and recipes for them can also be found in the books of the Romans and Greeks.
According to Ibnu Qayyim its juice is used to strengthen eyesight or it can be used as a kohl in cases of bad eyesight or conjunctivitis.
In a recent study carried out by the Department of Nutrition and Food Technology of Jordon University (2010) it was concluded that the antioxidant properties of the desert Truffle can prevent liver damage.
Truffles have a high nutritional value such that a sample of desert truffles (Tirmania nivea) from Saudi Arabia was found to contain 27.2% protein, 7.4% fat, 28% carbohydrates, 13.2% crude fibre, and 5.1% ascorbic acid. High amounts of K and P, and all essential amino acids were present in fair amounts, (Journal of Food science 2006) thus making it a great source for energy as suggested by Ibn Sinaa.
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