Oregon’s Bounty of Truffles

A day's work for a truffle dog. (Image by Oregon Truffle Festival)

Truffles have a culinary mystique that pairs well with Oregon’s reputation for stellar artisan food, drink and outstanding quality of life. While Oregonians pride themselves in the state’s approachable food scene, truffles bring a whole new “haute cuisine” element to Oregon’s casual and friendly vibe. Truffles are an ideal complement to the state’s fine wine, restaurant, hospitality and travel and tourism industries. We are pioneering locally sourced, sustainably produced, high-quality foods that are being transformed by local chefs into nationally recognized cuisine. The truffle is the elusive gem in Oregon’s culinary crown.

Where to Find Truffles

Oregon’s native culinary truffles are gathered from Douglas fir woodlands (Oregon’s state tree) throughout the Willamette Valley and the valleys of the Coast Range. Although native northwest species are found from northern California to southern British Columbia, they are most abundant in Oregon and are widely known as Oregon Truffles. “Old World” Truffles, known as the Perigord variety, are found mostly in France and Italy. However, the first Perigord variety was recently found in Oregon.

According to the North American Truffling Society, one can find truffles in North America by, “raking the organic litter away with a 4-tine garden rake. Find suitable habitat (most any forested area) and gently peel back the litter layer (remember to replace the litter when you are done and try to leave the area as you found it). Look for things that look like little potatoes, often beige, yellowish or reddish brown. If you find one it will be immediately apparent that it is not a dirt clod. Finding truffles takes a little luck and a lot of patience.”

However, truffle hunting can be tricky as most prime truffle land is privately owned. Visitors are encouraged to join a local truffle association foray or search with a local expert from organizations such as the North American Truffling Society in Corvallis, Oregon Mycological Society in Portland, or the Cascade Mycological Society in Eugene.

Oregon Truffle Festival

Since January 2006, Eugene has hosted the annual Oregon Truffle Festival. Created to celebrate Oregon truffles as they reach the peak of ripeness in their native soil, it is the first festival of its kind in North America dedicated to sharing the experience of the chefs, foragers and fans of Oregon’s wild truffles.

Each year, the festival features three days of cultivation seminars, truffle hunting excursions, winery tours, truffle-themed dining experiences local restaurants, a marketplace, public lectures, and a Grand Truffle Dinner. In past events, about two-thirds of participants have been from out of state, many coming to Oregon for the first time.

New to 2014 was the The Joriad™ North American Truffle Dog Championship, a first of its kind sporting event celebrating the emerging culture of truffle hunting on this continent. The two day inaugural event began with a series of qualifying events at an indoor area where spectators cheered on the teams as they raced to search for hidden truffle-scented targets. Ten finalists from Day 1 events advanced to the Joriad™ Field Trial: an authentic head-to-head and nose-to-ground action in the wild where nature alone determined where, what kinds, and how many truffles were hidden.

The top field competitor received the Keeper DeGlane award named for a very special truffle hunter. Keeper is from a long line of great truffle hunters tracing their lineage back to Italy.

The Economics of Truffles

According to a feasibility study, “Oregon Culinary Truffles: An Emergent Industry for Forestry, Agriculture and Culinary Tourism,” by David Pilz, Charles Lefevre, Leslie Scott and James Julian, annual global truffle commerce is expected to exceed $6 billion within the next two decades, rivaling many other agricultural commodities traded worldwide. With adequate support, cultivated and native truffles produced in Oregon could annually exceed $200 million in direct sales income; counting secondary economic benefits, the value of the industry could exceed $1.5 billion. Oregon has the climactic conditions required for truffle productions. Given the high demand for truffles, Oregon has a unique opportunity to become a leader in this rare, highly-prized commodity due to:

  • Superb native Oregon truffles that grow in private woodlands
  • Excellent climate and an abundance of suitable soils for cultivating European truffles
  • A world-renown, six-decade legacy of truffle research and the greatest concentration of truffle scientists and specialists in the world
  • A local supplier of truffle-inoculated tree seedlings from that scientific community
  • The Oregon Truffle Festival, the first of its kind in the English-speaking world
  • A reputation for fine wine, gourmet dining, culinary tourism and foods that are produced locally, sustainably and organically
  • A wealth of innovators and entrepreneurs seeking sustainable investment opportunities

For more information on Oregon truffles go to:
http://food.traveloregon.com/places/picking-foraging/
http://www.oregontrufflefestival.com/tale-of-the-truffle.html

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  1. Linea Gagliano