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

Obama: Alaskans Feel Signs of Climate Change

They're seeing bigger storm surges as sea ice melts, more wildfires, erosion of glaciers, shorelines More

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs