Simon Egli, WSL
Simon Egli, WSL

Truffles Grown in Radioactive Soil Are Safe to Eat, Scientists Say

Simon Egli, WSL
Simon Egli, WSL

Good news, gourmets: your truffles are probably not radioactive. Scientists say Burgundy truffles found in radioactive European soil are still safe to eat. The researchers published their findings yesterday in the journal Biogeosciences [PDF].

The lumpy, odiferous fungi called truffles are both a delicacy and something of an environmental alarm system. They grow underground, tapping into soil and tree roots through small filaments called mycelia. Nutrients, minerals, and other environmental molecules accumulate in the truffle. When the soil is rich and healthy, this is a good thing.

But the soil in Europe is not entirely healthy. The Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986 released massive amounts of radioactive isotopes like Cesium-137, which quickly spread across the USSR and Europe. Thirty years later, the environment still hasn’t entirely recovered.

"Much of the continent's topsoil layers are still radioactively contaminated," lead author Ulf Büntgen said in a press release. Contamination in the soil seeps into trees and fungi, which are then consumed by animals, disseminating radiation up the food chain. But it seems that some species are affected more than others.

The researchers followed truffle-hunting dogs like Miro (pictured above) through forests and plantations in Switzerland, Germany, France, Italy and Hungary. They were looking specifically for Burgundy truffles (Tuber aestivum), as the truffle’s broad geographic range would allow them to sample the same species in many different locations.

The researchers took their truffles back to the lab. They cleaned the fungi, ground them up, and scanned them for Cs-137. To their surprise, they didn’t find much. “All specimens reveal insignificant radiocaesium concentrations,” the authors wrote in their paper, “thus providing an all clear for truffle hunters and cultivators in Europe as well as dealers and customers from around the world.”

So what’s the deal? Why does T. aestivum get a free radioactivity pass? "We really don't know," Büntgen confessed in the press release. "We will, however, continue to spatially expand our search to include truffles from regions that were so far not considered—the more the better." 

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toyohara, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)
Meet Japan's Original (Not-so-Fresh) Form of Sushi, 'Funazushi'
toyohara, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)
toyohara, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0 (cropped)

When it comes to sushi, fresh is usually best. Most of the sushi we eat in America is haya-nare, which involves raw seafood and vinegared rice. But in Japan, there's an older form of sushi—said to be the original form—called funazushi. It's made from fermented carp sourced from one particular place, Lake Biwa, and takes about three years to produce from start to finish. The salt it's cured with keeps the bad bacteria at bay, and the result is said to taste like a fish version of prosciutto. Great Big Story recently caught up with Mariko Kitamura, the 18th generation to run her family’s shop in Takashima City, where she's one of the very few people left producing funazushi. You can learn more about the process behind the delicacy, and about Kitamura, in the video below.

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Bibo Barmaid
Bibo Barmaid Is Like a Keurig for Cocktails—and You Can Buy It Now
Bibo Barmaid
Bibo Barmaid

To make great-tasting cocktails at home, you could take a bartending class, or you could just buy a fancy gadget that does all the work for you. Imbibers interested in the hands-off approach should check out Bibo Barmaid, a cocktail maker that works like a Keurig machine for booze.

According to Supercall, all you need to turn the Bibo Barmaid system into your personal mixologist is a pouch of liquor and a pouch of cocktail flavoring. Bibo's liquor options include vodka, whiskey, rum, and agave spirit (think tequila), which can be paired with flavors like cucumber melon, rum punch, appletini, margarita, tangerine paloma, and mai tai.

After choosing your liquor and flavor packets, insert them into the machine, press the button, and watch as it dilutes the mixture and pours a perfect single portion of your favorite drink into your glass—no muddlers or bar spoons required.

Making cocktails at home usually means investing in a lot of equipment and ingredients, which isn't always worth it if you're preparing a drink for just yourself or you and a friend. With Bibo, whipping up a cocktail isn't much harder than pouring yourself a glass of wine.

Bibo Barmaid is now available on Amazon for $240, and cocktail mixes are available on Bibo's website starting at $35 for 18 pouches. The company is working on rolling out its liquor pouches in liquor stores and other alcohol retailers across the U.S.

[h/t Supercall]

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