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Did you know? It’s Kalahari truffle time!

Avatar of inke inke - 05. June 2017 - Discover Namibia, Environment

The Kalahari truffle, a delicacy of the Kalahri desert.

Kalahari truffles grow in eastern Namibia. They appear in years of good rainfall, usually late in the season when weather conditions are favourable. Driving in the eastern regions in autumn, you’re likely to see people searching for the cracks and protuberances in the red soil that reveal their whereabouts.

Unlike the European truffles, the more affordable desert truffles favour arid and semi-arid areas of the world and are found in the Arabian Peninsula, the Mediterranean basin, North Africa, Australia and the Kalahari Desert – Namibia, Botswana, South Africa and Angola. Their history dates back thousands of years when they were served at pharaohs’ royal feasts and they have been enjoyed by the indigenous peoples of North Africa and the Middle East from time immemorial. The Bushmen/San of the Kalahari are said to refer to these desert truffles as ‘the eggs of the lightning bird’ as they often appear after a thunderstorm.  

Truffles are hypogeous fungi, fungi that have their fruitbodies growing below the ground. The Kalahari truffle, or Kalaharituber pfeilii (once known as Terfezia pfeilii), is smooth like a potato and has a nutty mushroom taste. The edible fungi form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of several plant species, most commonly, the Tsamma melon. The ripe fruit dries and shrivels as it is exposed to the sun, releasing invisible spores. These are distributed by the wind, remaining dormant in years of drought.

Kalahari truffles can be eaten raw or cooked in a variety of ways: boiled, buried in hot ash or searing sand, roasted over the fire or fried with onions and seasoned with salt and pepper. They are commonly known by their Nama name !nabas.

Although less flavoursome than its distant European relative, the Kalahari truffle is a treasured desert fungus, and one of Namibia’s wild and delicious 'veldkos' delicacies.

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