"...It is generally believed that the truffle excites the genetic sense." So wrote Jean Antheleme Brillet-Savarin, the renowned 17th century gastronome, in his classic work The Physiology of Taste.
A great deal has been written before and since regarding the aphrodisiacal property of the truffle, and while no hard scientific evidence has yet turned up to support any chemical substance as being a reliable trigger of sexual desire in humans, there is some evidence that some species of truffles produce a pheromonal scent that is a mating trigger in female pigs.
"Human interest in truffles may also owe something to this hormone. The rich, almost meaty flavor of the fungi and their ability to intensify the flavor of vegetable dishes are largely due to an abnormally high content of glutamic acid, which makes them a natural version of monosodium glutamate. Mushrooms respire very actively after harvest compared to most produce, and during four days' storage will lose about half of their sugar and starch reserves to chitin."
Do truffles actually have aphrodisiacal properties?
The answer is a qualified yes.
But then again, a fine dinner by candlelight, the sweet shaving of white truffles over a perfectly creamy risotto, a tender, blood-rare filet wrapped with wild boar bacon and drenched in black truffle cream, a glass of magnificent Bordeaux, and surely the atmosphere of romance might well accomplish what the chemical alone cannot. Even if the truffle has no aphrodisiacal properties in and of itself, it is still a dish for lovers.