Saturday, May 16, 2020


Anyone who knows anything about TRUFFLES knows that pigs used to be the main “digger’s for this much sought after fungus.  Evidently this fungus smells like testosterone, so the females were used.  But pigs like to root, often disturbing natural habitats and also grow pretty big- who wants to wrestle a 2-300 pound pig, especially when the pig decides she wants to eat that truffle? 

In 1985 pigs were outlawed to hunt truffles  because they damaged truffle beds while trying to get at them, hence dogs were brought into the picture. While many breeds have been tested for this work the undisputed truffle hunting breed is the Lagotto Romagnolo.

Years of selective breeding made this once water-retrieving breed into one with an uncanny talent for scenting, but with the hunting instinct suppressed so that a Lagotto isn’t distracted by the smell of game while working.

So we are often asked by anyone in the know of truffles, "do your Lagotti hunt truffles?"   Not yet, we answer but….  There is no reason why they can’t be trained and it is thought we have truffles on Shaw, as we have the right habitat and trees.

People have had some success cultivating truffles in Oregon, and black and white truffles have been discovered in the wild in British Columbia, California, Montana, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington, mostly near the roots of Douglas fir trees. These North American varieties don’t share the intense aroma of their European cousins found in Italy, France, and Spain—but then again, they don’t have the value of thousands of dollars a pound.

The four species of native truffles are cousins of the celebrated truffles of France and Italy. In the Pacific Northwest region of North America, three of the commercial culinary varieties of truffles grow in association with Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii) in coastal forests and timber stands. The main growing season for commercial culinary species in the Pacific Northwest is winter through spring. Different species of truffles, such as some of those in Europe will be ripe at different times of the year.

What are these strange, much sought after edibles that look like misshapen clods of earth? Truffles are not eaten in quantity like other highly esteemed mushrooms such as porcini, morels or chanterelles; truffles are all about their rich aroma ... Just a few thin shavings of a mature truffle will infuse a dish sufficiently with its savory aroma, turning a good meal into a culinary sensation. Also, truffles are commonly used to infuse oil rich foods like cheese, pâté, butter or high end oils. The infusion happens by osmosis, one need only place a mature truffle next to the food within a sealed container. In the case of oils one should not put the truffle into the oil. That would suffocate the truffle and not transfer its taste. Just let them sit next to each other for a few days and the oil smells like truffles. 

Truffle orchards have been planted in the Pacific Northwest since the late 90s, and the very first ones produced Pacific Northwest Périgord truffles for the first time in 2012. Most orchards are still too young, however. It takes at least 5 years for the first truffles to mature. Like good wines or cheese, cultivating truffles is its own art and science. 

The reason for the low supply is that a truffle never pops its head above ground, so finding one can be a bit of a treasure hunt. But merely locating a truffle isn’t enough. It has to be extracted at peak ripeness; otherwise, it is essentially worthless. Unlike other crops that continue to ripen after being picked, an unripe truffle has no odor and no flavor—and never will after it is removed from the ground.

So by end of summer we hope to have two very good truffle hunters, since digging is their passion!

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