Sustainable Living Center Oregon
Eugene, Ore. (December 15, 2016) — Dr. Charles Lefevre, internationally renowned Mycologist and cofounder of The Oregon Truffle Festival (Jan. 28 – 29, 2017), has worked with growers across North America since 2000 to plant orchards of oak and hazelnut seedlings inoculated with truffles through his company, New World Truffieres.
His first customer, Pat Long of Corvallis, Ore., unearthed the first Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) grown in Oregon in 2013. Last week, Long’s first harvest of this winter season produced enough truffles for a commercial sale to James Beard Award nominated chef Matt Bennett of Sybaris Bistro in Albany, Ore., making this the first sizable crop of Perigord truffles grown in the Pacific Northwest.
With twelve more weeks of harvests ahead in several Pacific Northwest orchards, Dr. Lefevre anticipates the upcoming cultivated truffle season to be the most productive yet.
Truffles resemble small potatoes, and often between the size of a marble to a tennis ball. There are hundreds of different kinds of truffles, and while none are known to be poisonous, only a few of them are delicacies by humans. Truffles are only the “fruit” of the fungus, like an apple to an apple tree.
Humans can’t smell as well as most wild animals. All truffles are very odiferous when they mature. Mammals such as rodents, deer, bear, elk, roles, raccoons, and pigs actively seek truffles and eat them. The spores pass through their digestive tracks unharmed and get deposited elsewhere. This is the means of reproduction for the Truffles.
All truffles have strong odors, and many are disagreeable to humans. But a few species of truffles around the world cause some people drool. Why this allure? It’s all in the odor of a few types of truffles. Grated over a dish of food, a tiny amount of truffle shavings can change a common dish into food for royalty. The ripeness or maturity of the truffle is the key, because the odor only becomes intense when the spores are ready to be released. Gourmet chefs describe culinary truffles as smelling earthy, musky, pungent, or nutty, or like garlic or blue cheese, although none of these adequately describe the odors.
Truffles don’t really have much of a “taste”, but the smell is so overwhelming that it infuses any meal. To the non-aficionado, the truffle’s smell is likely to be one that must “grow on you.” There are many wonderful recipes for using truffles in cooking and food preparation. The truffle’s aroma and flavor can be destroyed by heat, so finding ways to incorporate their use into food preparation with little or no heat is important.
The truffle odor molecules also cling to fat molecules. Thus, one of the classic recipes is a truffle butter, where fresh grated truffles are added to a softened butter for flavoring. Anything from eggs to roast turkeys can be flavored with truffles. Not only do truffles need to be ripe to develop the strongest odors, but they need to be fresh. Proper handling, quick shipment, and prompt use preserve these qualities and enhance the dinning pleasure.
Truffles grow from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, south to northern California. Fortunately for Oregonians, prime habitat for Oregon’s culinary truffles (both white and black) is found in young, fast-growing Douglas-fir tree plantations in the foothills of the Willamette Valley. Even Christmas tree plantations near the age of harvesting will produce Oregon truffles. Such “truffle-plantations” can yield annual crops of truffles that far exceed the value of the trees. Not only are such forests and plantations abundant, privately owned, and easily accessed, but truffle patches might be easy to establish (if they are not already there).
Some landowners claim that new truffle patches can be established by grinding mature truffles and spreading them and thus their spores in a water slurry. This claim has yet to be verified using scientific methods, but knowing if this is true would benefit the young Oregon truffle industry.
More landowners planted hazelnuts trees inoculated with French black truffles. Hazelnuts are small, easy to grow good in Oregon. These trees known for producing truffles in as little as three years after planting. They also produce excellent edible nuts that can be harvested along with the truffles from the same trees.
Preventing trespass and unauthorized harvesting can be a concern for landowners who wish to get the most value from their truffle crops. If the landowner does not wish to harvest truffles themselves, deciding to provide exclusive access to trusted harvesters in exchange for a portion of the sales price is good approach. Oregon’s truffle industry still needs some improved methods of harvesting and marketing, but the potential economic returns to the state and its citizens are large.
Although found in several regions of the world, the most famous areas for truffle production, gathering, and use are in France, Spain, and Italy. The French Black Truffle and the Italian White Truffle have long been considered an essential ingredient in fine cooking in Europe. As far back as the Greeks and Romans, truffles have been used for cooking, as an aphrodisiac, and medicinally.
Thus, truffles are among the world’s most expensive natural foods. Top quality Italian white truffles routinely sell for up to $2,000 per pound. In a 2005 auction in Italy, a 2.4-pound truffle, one of the biggest ever found, sold for $52,000, the highest price ever paid!
Only in the past 20 years or so have several species of Oregon truffles become recognized for their culinary quality and potential value in the marketplace. In fact, with truffle production declining in Europe since 1900, Oregon’s relatively untapped supply is gaining more and more notice.
Oregon truffles generally command a much lower price in today’s marketplace, compared with their European counterparts. Oregon truffle prices vary widely but can range from $400-$900 per pound. The type of truffle, its ripeness, and current market demand all affect the price.
All the truffle fungi form with the roots of trees, and are essential to the trees’ ability to acquire nutrients. The below ground fruiting habit of truffles is thought to be an adaptation to forest fires or dry or frosty periods, in which above ground mushrooms are more vulnerable.
Fungi are complex organisms. Their bodies consist of a network (called a mycelium) of thread-like filaments (called hyphae) that lives in the soil, decaying organic matter, or insect and animal tissue. Fungi can be either beneficial or detrimental to plant growth. Some fungi cause diseases that can harm or kill plants. For instance, many fungi that rot tree stems fruit as conks instead of mushrooms. Conks are the tough to woody shelf-like structures seen on the trunks of infected trees.
Most fungi in our forest, however, are beneficial. When fungi that are called “mycorrhizal” (literally “fungus-root”) grow in association with plant roots, both the plant and fungus derive benefits. The fungus improves the ability of the plant to extract needed water and nutrients from the soil. At the same time, the plants provide the fungi with carbohydrates that they produce through photosynthesis. This mutually beneficial or symbiotic relationship between the fungus and a plant is essential for both organisms to survive and flourish.
We will be starting a truffle orchard this year. Presently the PH of the ground is 6.5. The PH has to be raised to 7.9
We will be planting trees next fall.
We are preparing the land. We will attempt to do it in a Sustainable manner by trying to get Owls and Hawk to make their home near the orchard to control the rodents.
We will be using:
These techniques are describe on this web site.
We will posting here on our progress and failures.