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

Turkey's Controversial Reform Bill Giving Investors Jitters

Homeland security reform bill will give police new powers in search, seizure, detention and arrests, while restricting the rights of suspects, their attorneys More

Audio Slideshow In Kenyan Prison, Good Grades Are Path to Freedom

Some inmates who get high marks could see their sentences commuted to non-custodial status More

'Rumble in the Jungle' Turns 40

'The Champ' knocked Foreman out to regain crown he had lost 7 years earlier when US government accused him of draft-dodging and boxing officials revoked his license 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.
Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisiai
X
Henry Ridgwell
October 30, 2014 11:39 PM
Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Victorious Secularists Face Challenge to Form Government in Tunisia

Official results from Tunisia show the Islamist Ennahda party has failed to win the second free election since the so-called "Arab Spring" uprising in 2011. Ennahda, which handed power to a government of technocrats pending the elections, lost out to the secular party Nidaa Tounes. Henry Ridgwell reports from London that the relatively peaceful poll offers some hope in a volatile region.
Video

Video Africa Tells its Story Through Fashion

In Africa, Fashion Week is a riot of colors, shapes, patterns and fabrics - against the backdrop of its ongoing struggle between nature and its fast-growing urban edge. How do these ideas translate into needle and thread? VOA’s Anita Powell visited this year’s Mercedes Benz Fashion Week Africa in Johannesburg to find out.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.

All About America

AppleAndroid