News / USA

Oregon Truffle Dogs Unearth Buried Treasure

Dog trainer Jim Sanford searches for the truffle his Lagotto Romangnolo (Italian truffle dog) has just alerted him to. (VOA/T.Banse)
Dog trainer Jim Sanford searches for the truffle his Lagotto Romangnolo (Italian truffle dog) has just alerted him to. (VOA/T.Banse)
Tom Banse
Mia MacCollin doesn't contain her excitement when her dog, a black Labrador mix named Boston, finds the buried treasure he's been looking for: the native Oregon white truffle.

These unique mushrooms, which grow underground near the roots of trees, can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail.

Mia and Boston are finishing up a two-day course in truffle foraging at a Douglas fir plantation south of Salem. MacCollin and 15 other dog owners have each paid nearly $600 to attend.

In France, truffle hunters historically relied on the keen noses of pigs, while Italy is home to a special breed of truffle dog. In the United States, a small cadre of dog trainers and truffle lovers promotes the use of all sorts of breeds.

Trainer Deb Walker says a dog is far better than a man with a rake when it comes to uncovering truffles. But it can take up to a year to fully train a truffle dog. Although some can pick up the basics in a matter of days.
Oregon white truffles can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail. (Courtesy Toil & Truffle)Oregon white truffles can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail. (Courtesy Toil & Truffle)
x
Oregon white truffles can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail. (Courtesy Toil & Truffle)
Oregon white truffles can fetch hundreds of dollars per kilogram at retail. (Courtesy Toil & Truffle)

"It's easy to teach a dog the truffle scent and to find it," Walker says. "The hard part is teaching the dog to tell you when he's found it, not to eat it when he's found it, [and] to keep working for an hour or two."

Truffle lovers have difficulty describing the earthy allure of the forest fruit. The underground mushrooms can range from the size of a pea to a golf ball. 

They remind Gold Beach, Oregon, chef and tree farm owner Janet Snazuk of the nuances of fine wine.

"The taste is like nothing that you've ever experienced," she says. "It's got an oil that permeates and stays with you. It's exotic."

Ripe Oregon white truffles are often described as having a nutty, earthy taste. Others compare it to menthol and pine. An Oregon brown truffle can be garlicky, and the rare black truffle can release heady aromas of pineapple, port wine, chocolate and dirt.

Truffles from France and Italy still command a premium price in the marketplace. But new exporters are emerging onto the scene.

Some Australian farmers have successfully cultivated European truffle varieties on a commercial scale, while the Chinese are making the biggest splash by shipping greater volumes at more affordable prices.

International competitors knock the Chinese for using rakes instead of animals to uncover their truffles. Actually, the mechanical harvest method is common in the U.S., too.

But dog trainer Jim Sanford believes that using rakes is indiscriminate and leads to waste.

“My feeble human nose cannot differentiate as well as a dog between a ripe truffle and an unripe truffle," Sanford says. "If you’re just blindly taking them out of the ground with a rake, by the time you disturb them, if they aren’t ripe you can’t put them back. They’re never going to ripen. That’s just kind of how that is.”

That’s one reason instructor Sanford foresees a growing demand for trained canines, especially as more landowners in the Pacific Northwest set up truffle plantations.

"The truffle industry, if you can call it that, here in the Northwest, we've barely scratched the surface," he says. "There's a huge abundance of truffles and there will be a huge need for truffle dogs. I think it's going to get exponentially more popular."

You May Like

Video Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid