Jim Webb, Truffle Marketer,
with Oregon Black Truffles
Oregon Truffle Festival, Recipes
in those Oregon hills. Black and white gold
in the form of truffles. Buried inches below
the ground beneath mounds of fir needles and
loose dirt under young Douglas Fir, hazelnut,
and oak trees are Oregon white and black
truffles. These precious fungi are the product
of a mysterious marriage between a subterranean
mushroom and the roots of a tree. They grow
only in specific soil and climate which the
western valleys of the Pacific Northwest
are famous for.
There are fall, winter
and summer harvests of truffles, though the
most sought after truffles mature in the winter.
The harvest season for Oregon white truffles
is November to February each year. Oregon's
black truffle season goes into March. Oregon's truffles
are genetic cousins to the renowned Alba
white truffles found in Italy’s
Piedmont region and the "Black Diamond",
the intense black truffle from Périgord,
Something magical happens
underground when truffles ripen. A subtle pheromone
is released that indicate it’s ripening
nature, which is why animals with good noses
have proven to be such excellent truffle hunters. Truffles
are an acquired taste, and an expensive one.
Fresh black winter truffles from France or
Italy can easily fetch $250 for just a few
ounces. Even premium grade Oregon white and
black truffles sell for $15 an ounce, or $240
a pound. With Oregon vineyards and wineries
developing truffle forests, more of this hard
to find, delicious prize may become available
to truffle lovers.
Oregon's New Gourmet Crop?
Oregon wineries, most
notably King Estate, are innoculating the woods
around their vineyards with truffle seedlings.
Most Oregon wineries consist of a vineyard
site surrounded by acres of untouched forest.
The small wineries of Oregon, for the lost
part, have left their woods alone, content
to allow their presence to shelter their vineyards
and maintain the "terroir" of the
site. These forests are ready made for truffle
cultivation. Oregon truffles could become a
significant part of a vineyard's income, allowing
fallow land to contribute to the business.
Why now? Why are truffles
suddenly becoming a viable crop for Oregon
wineries? Truffles have historically been harvested
in the wild. If truffles were present, they
were there without plan or human intervention.
Cultivation of truffles was unheard of until
the 1980's, when research led to methods for
innoculating trees with the truffle fungus
under controlled conditions. Over twenty years
of successful cultivation by researchers, many
from Oregon State University in Corvallis,
have led to an interest by business people
in commercial production.
One of the world's foremost
truffle authorities is Dr. Charles Lefevre
of Oregon State University, a truffle cultivation
specialist whose company, New World Truffieres,
is based near Eugene, Oregon.
New World Truffieres produces truffle tree
seedlings (oaks, hazelnuts and other species)
inoculated with Tuber melanosporum and other
truffle species in North America. Planting
tree seedlings innoculated with the truffle
fungus has proven the best way to develop a
Dr Lefevre says: " To
cultivate truffles, inoculated truffle trees
are planted in orchards much like those for
fruits and nuts, except that the crop appears
below ground and is usually harvested with
the help of trained dogs or pigs that can smell
the truffles through a layer of earth. Truffles
begin to appear several years after the inoculated
seedlings are planted and production can continue
for decades. The onset and duration of production
depends to some extent on the species of host
tree. Yields vary dramatically: some farms
produce as much as 150 pounds per acre each
year while others produce little. Typical yields
in Europe range between 25 and 35 pounds per
acre each year, but as methods improve many
more farms are achieving yields in excess of
100 pounds per acre."
Oregon White Truffles
Care and Cooking
of Oregon Truffles
soil from truffles just before eating.
Use a soft basting brush or mushroom
brush. Carefully clean any mold and dirt
off of them. Do not wash soft truffles
such as Oregon white truffles.
For sturdier truffles (the hard-shelled
Oregon black truffles, the Périgord), use
a clean toothbrush dipped lightly in a good quality
brandy or bourbon, then pat dry with a paper towel. Nothing
is too good for these little babies. Fresh truffles
should be inspected every day and used before they
get too soft. If they appear oily, use them
immediately or preserve them.
The classic way to use Oregon truffles is to scrape
or grate the fungi onto food and into
sauces and soups just before eating. Too
much heat for too long can seriously
mute the flavors. Experts recommend
that chicken, fish, soufflés,
pasta, and rice can be enhanced with
thinly sliced truffles. Cream and cheese
sauces avidly take up their flavor.
The fresh truffle
is a still living mushroom, which gives
off its perfume for several days. Fresh
is best. Jars
of preserved truffles have less of
that "come hither" perfume. Truffle powder
is a quick pick-me-up to a dish
and still carries a hint of earthiness.
There’s no reason not to have
truffles in some form, even if you don't
Oregon black truffles
can be added to a dish earlier in the
cooking process and still retain a lot
of their earthy flavor. Oregon
white truffles are much more aromatic,
with delicate, floral and spicy scents
and flavors combined. Oregon blacks
have amore deep kind of an earthy-musky
bass note that carries nicely and provides
a real rich underlying flavor to a dish
As for cooking,
less is more. Gently sauté them
in a dab of butter or use them in a
cream sauce. Just remember - the perfume
of a truffle is very volatile and disappears
rapidly so limit the cooking time.
Storing and Preserving
A freshly picked
truffle can keep up to a couple of weeks
if stored properly. Its
worst enemy is moisture: keep truffles
in the fridge, on a bed of rice, in
a closed container. The rice will also
acquire a wonderful flavor.
truffles in a jar that you filled with
whole eggs and then put in the refrigerator
allows the truffle to perfume the eggs
within. Use those eggs in a soufflé or
an omelet and you’ll be amazed
at how the subtle flavors permeate
people swear by preserving truffles
in brandy or bourbon. This
only works only for a few weeks as the
alcohol will strip the flavors of the
truffle very fast. The upside is
that it makes great cooking brandy when
you’re done, that you can add to
a cream sauce or to help deglaze a pan
You can store
a truffle in neutral oil as long as you
use the truffle and the oil within a
couple of weeks. Beyond that, bacteria
will develop. Truffles can also be frozen
for two weeks in a freezer-proof glass
truffles, or any mushroom for that matter,
in a plastic bag. The truffles will rot
if not allowed to breathe a little. Store
truffles in a tight jar in a cool place
and use ‘em
fast is your best strategy.
Tested culinary matches in recipes for
pasta, eggs, butter, cream, white meat
poultry, walnuts, risotto, Parmesan,
Asiago and Romano cheese, frisée and other
mildly bitter greens, white balsamic
vinegar in a salad, bresaola or other
cured meats such as prosciutto, potatoes
and other gratin dishes, pate and rabbit.
Truffled Fontina cheese fondue is killer.
Shaved raw, never cooked, and use the
oil at the last minute and not in the
cooking as too much heat destroys the
aromatic compounds. By now, you
know this mantra.
Black French, Italian: Dark meat
poultry and game (duck, venison), red meats (beef,
pork, but lamb is not an ideal match), wild mushrooms,
red wine sauces and great red wines, brandy, apples,
fennel, mellow cheeses (aged gouda, hard sweet goat
cheeses), soups and bisques, pastry, bacon or pancetta.
Black truffles benefit long, slow simmering to mellow
and marry with a dish, though they can be used fresh
when peeled and very thinly sliced.
white truffles: Everything on the
Italian white list except the cured
meats. They also compliment some of
the culinary matches on the black truffle
list, specifically dark meat poultry,
pork and beef, mellow cheeses, great
red wines and red wine sauces, soups
and bisques, pastry and wild mushrooms.
They also pair magnificently with tomatoes,
something none of the other truffles
do nearly as well. Their texture is
much like the Italian white, soft and
juicy, and they make an absolutely
wonderful truffle butter if whirled
with fresh sweet butter in a food processor.
They specifically complement eggs and
dairy products; and are excellent as
part of a hearty beef dish such as
filet mignon en croute (in a puff pastry
crust), as their intense, musky-savory
bouquet can stand up to even strong
flavors. This extremely versatile truffle
can be used either fresh or raw, sliced
thin, lightly cooked in an omelet,
or more moderately cooked as in for
Beef Wellington or incorporated into
a sauce or a pastry. Don't simmer them
for anywhere near as long as you would
a black truffle. Shaved or grated
fresh is best or lightly warmed in
Source: Tanith Tyrr – Bay
The Process of Truffle
(with thanks to New World Truffieres)
Truffles are the “fruit” of
fungi that live in a mutually beneficial connection
to the roots of many trees. The truffle fungus
finds water and mineral nutrients in the soil
around the tree and passes them along to the
tree. In exchange, the tree provides sugars
produced through photosynthesis to the fungus.
The tree and the fungus depend on one another.
Many types of trees can
serve as hosts for Oregon truffles, and many
kinds of fungi, as well as those that make
truffles, can fulfill the same role for
the tree. In nature, the truffle fungi compete
for space on the host tree’s
root system. This competition limits truffle
production, and if conditions are poor, other
fungi can displace the truffle fungus from
the root system.
Because it is not possible to weed out competing
fungus species, the strategy behind truffle
cultivation is to provide the truffle fungus
with the conditions it needs to prevail in
the competition against other fungi. This competitive
advantage is given to the truffles in several
ways: through careful site selection, planting
inoculated seedlings, and creating soil conditions
better suited to truffles than other fungi.
With a good site and good quality seedlings,
the establishment and management of a truffiere
is straightforward and potentially profitable
even on a small scale.
Oregon truffle cultivators
use seedlings inoculated with the "good" truffle
fungus while they are still in the nursery.
Being innoculated with truffle fungus before
planting, the truffle fungus has the advantage
of being there first. It is more difficult
for other fungi to become established on roots
that are already colonized.
In Oregon, truffle cultivators add lime
to the soil where the innoculated trees are planted
to raise the soil pH. This simple process creates dramatic
changes in soil chemistry, giving the culinary truffles
an advantage while simultaneously putting non-truffle
fungi at a competitive
disadvantage. Thus, Oregon truffle cultivators have
an advantage that their competitors, European truffle
farmers, do not have.
One additional method
can be used to give Oregon truffles an advantage
over their natural competitors in the wild.
The competitive fungi in the woods of Oregon
thrive in a limited number of tree types. By
innoculating and planting trees cultivated
from European sources, trees that Oregon fungi
cannot live in, the truffle farmer limits the
number of competitive fungi that can compete
with the desireable truffle fungus.
Oregon's Commercial Truffle
A combination of Oregon's
environmental conditions and the cultivation
methods described above (developed at OSU and
other universities) seem to be providing Oregon
truffle farmers with a competitive advantage.
Beautiful, large truffles were shown at the
recent Oregon Truffle Festival, and a number
of companies marketing Oregon truffles and
truffle related products exist today, with
more on the way.
Oregon Wild Edibles
(www,oregonwildedibles.com) sells Oregon truffles online from Eugene, Oregon.
you love truffles a lot and are in it for
the long haul, you might consider purchasing
truffle inoculated trees from New
World Truffieres (www.truffletree.com). He supplies inoculated
seedlings and professional assistance to commercial
and amateur truffle farmers.
(www.shirewoodfarm.com) cultivates truffles and hosts truffle hunts
from Cottage Grove, Oregon.
House (www.campbellhouse.com), a B&B in Eugene, Oregon, has a popular restaurant
specializing in local produce, and often uses
Oregon truffles in its dishes.
And my favorite, the
truely memorable Marche Restaurant
Eugene's Fifth Street Market, provides memorable
meals from local ingredients in all seasons,
and uses Oregon truffles when available. Founding
Chef and Owner Stephanie Pearl Kimmel is sort
of the Alice Waters of Oregon, offering fine
cuisine from local meats, produce, nuts, herbs,
and more for the last twenty plus years, first
as founder of Excelsior Cafe, now at Marche,
where she reigns with Executive Chef Rocky Maselli.
I highly recommend Marche, at any time, and
especially on Sunday nights, when they offer
a family style dinner. Marche also has a steady
calendar of special event dinners well worth
Resources and Organizations
The North American
Truffling Society (www.natruffling.org) is
based in Corvallis, and has regular truffling
events as well as meetings and guest speakers. There's
an excellent photo gallery of truffles on
the site, nice to use to compare what you've
found to waht the experts have identified. There's
also more recipes, and some very cool t-shirts
to order. If you're learning about truffle
foraging, the NATS has self-published a Field
Guide to North American Truffles, available
on the site. Newsletters of the group going
back to 1980 are archived on the site as
The Oregon Truffle
Festival (oregontrufflefestival.com) is
quickly turning into an extranvaganza event
attracting people from all over the world.
At the recent Second Annual event, attendees
from NYC to Egypt formed a substantial part
of the populace. The event features lectures
on truffle cultivation, truffle forays, dinners
prepared by Oregon's best chefs, and a grand
dinner event ($150 a person) with five courses
of truffle laden dishes made by five different
reknowned Oregon chefs.