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Terfeziaceae or Terfess
Desert truffle - Terfezia spp. from Avanos, Turkey.jpg
Desert truffle (Terfezia spp.) from Avanos, Turkey
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Fungi
Division: Ascomycota
Subphylum: Pezizomycotina
Class: Pezizomycetes
Order: Pezizales
Family: Terfeziaceae


Desert Truffle Iran/ Yamchi town - Yamchi District

The Terfeziaceae, or desert truffles, is a family of truffles (Berber: Tirfas, Arabic: كمأ Kamā') endemic to arid and semi-arid areas of the Mediterranean Region, North Africa, and the Middle East, where they live in ectomycorrhizal association with Helianthemum species and other ectomycorrhizal plants (including Cistus, oaks, and pines). This group consists of three genera: Terfezia, Tirmania, and Mattirolomyces. They are a few centimetres across and weigh from 30 to 300 grams (1-10 oz). Desert truffles are often used as a culinary ingredient.

Family description[edit]

Fruit-bodies (ascomata) are large, more or less spherical to turbinate (like a top), thick-walled, and solid. The asci are formed in marbled veins interspersed with sterile tissue. The asci are cylindrical to spherical, indehiscent (not splitting open at maturity), and sometimes stain blue in iodine. Ascospores are hyaline to pale brown, spherical, and uninucleate.[1]

Habitat and ecology[edit]

Desert truffles, as the name suggests, predominantly grow in the desert. They have been found in arid and semi-arid zones of the Kalahari desert, the Mediterranean basin, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, the Negev desert in Israel, the Sahara, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Libya, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Hungary, Croatia, and China.[2][3] It is commonly said that they are formed where lightning strikes the desert sands, since they are not the most common of fungi (thus justifying their cost).

Culinary use and commercial importance[edit]

Desert truffles do not have the same flavor as European truffles, but tend to be more common and thus more affordable. Forest truffles (genus Tuber) typically cost $1000 per kilogram, and Italian truffles may sell for up to $2200 per kilogram, while Terfezia truffles sold as of 2002 in Riyadh for $80 to $105 a kilo, and in recent years have reached, but not yet exceeded, $270.[4]

Vernacular names[edit]

Desert truffles go by several different names. In Iran they are called Donbalan, In Turkey they are called Domalan in Central Anatolia and Keme on the Syrian border. In Algeria and Tunisia they are called terfez, the Bedouin of the Western Desert call them terfas. The Kuwaitis call them fagga, the Saudis faq'h, and in Syria, and in Libya terfase, they are known by their classical Arabic name, kamaa. Iraqis call them kamaa, kima or chima, depending on local dialects and in Oman they are either faqah or zubaydi. The Hebrew word is kmehin. In southern Spain, they are known as turmas or criadillas and in the Canary Islands they are known as Papas Crias. In Botswana they are called mahupu. In Iran; they are called Dombal. The Nama-Damara call them !Nabas, where they are also known as the "Kalahari truffle".

In Saudi Arabia, there are two varieties; khalasi are oval with a black skin and a pinkish-ivory interior, and zubaidi have a cream colour but are generally more expensive.

In oceanic countries, there is some confusion regarding the desert truffle, as the yam is often referred to as the common desert truffle as well.[5]

Species list[edit]


  1. ^ Cannon, P.F., Kirk, P.M. (2007). Fungal Families of the World. p. 347. Singapore: CABI Publishing. 456 pp.
  2. ^ Kagan-Zur V. Terfezias, a family of mycorrhizal edible mushrooms for arid zones. In: Schlissel, Arnold; Pasternak, D. (2001). Combating desertification with plants. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. ISBN 0-306-46632-5. 
  3. ^ Loizides, M., Hobart, C., Konstandinides, G., Yiangou, Y. (2012). Desert Truffles: The mysterious jewels of antiquity. Field Mycology 13 (1): 17-21. doi:10.1016/j.fldmyc.2011.12.004
  4. ^ Feeney, J: Desert Truffles Galore, page 22-27. Saudi Aramco World, 2002.
  5. ^ Tedder, M. M. Yams, a description of their cultivation on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.(Noumea: South Pacific Commission, 1974) pp. xi
  6. ^ Percudani, R., Trevisi, A., Zambonelli, A., Ottonello, S. (1999). Molecular phylogeny of truffles (Pezizales: Terfeziaceae, Tuberaceae) derived from nuclear rDNA sequence analysis. Molec. Phylogenet. Evol. 13(1):169-80.

External links[edit]