How to acquire Truffles
From the history of truffle search, the truffle pigs are the most known helpers. Nowadays, special dog breeds are trained and used for the search. Also, it is known that the truffle fly flies to the subterranean growing tuber when depositing its eggs. The fly’s circling over its eggs can be an indicator that truffles also grow there. That’s where their name comes from.
The truffles can also be found without a dog or pig. But it is difficult because we humans can rely only on our eyes. So it happens that dogs are trained to sniff the special mushrooms through the soil.
Searching for black and white truffles requires a lot of patience, experience, and knowledge. It is extremely important to “cover-up” the place where the truffles were found again because this way the fine roots of the host plants do not dry out and the truffles can continue to thrive. If you take care of your truffle sites, you can continue to use them for up to 60 years and enjoy the mushrooms as a connoisseur.
How to harvest the truffle?
There are three methods for harvesting: with a dog, a pig or flies (yes, flies!!). Pigs are practically no longer trained for this activity. Today the majority of harvesters use specially trained dogs to search for truffles.
Any dog can become a truffle dog; just educate him by training his sense of smell. He tracks the smell of truffles that he digs out of the ground.
If you have no dog or pig, you can use flies … especially the species “Suillia gigantea“. This fly likes truffles because it lays its eggs on top. The harvester must follow the fly and track where it lay. It’s a technique that requires a lot of patience and a trained eye.
What today is rather a tourist attraction was in former times the number one method to find the truffles. The search with the truffle pig. But why were pigs used for this purpose?
The truffle pig as a “smelling” talent
The truffles have a very intense scent. This scent has great similarities to the sexual scent of a male pig (boar). Due to this fact, mature female pigs (sows) can locate the mushrooms because they confuse the smell of truffles with that of their potential partners. And because of their good sense of smell, which even far exceeds the fine nose of a dog, they can still smell it, even if they are partly half a meter below the surface.
How to recognize the truffle location
Truffles grow at the roots of host plants. These are deciduous trees, nut bushes, and fir trees. They live in symbiosis with their host. They grow best during spring and summer when there is warmth and rain. Frost damages truffles. The soil should be calcareous and interspersed with sediments, near flowing waters. The truffle can then be found at a depth of 10-20 cm.
The unspecific appearance of truffles makes it difficult for humans to recognize them in the ground, but there are also optical signs of truffle growth that can help in truffle searches.
The soil is rough and darker than its surroundings. This occurs around the truffle area because the fungus suppresses the surrounding vegetation and taps the nutrients for th host plant, which in turn claims nutrients during photosynthesis. Sometimes holes in the soil are also an indication of truffle occurrence. Small rodents looking for food are attracted by the strong and special aroma of the underground growing tuber and try to dig it out.
Areas for truffle hunting
There are almost countless areas suitable for truffle hunting. The most famous is the Piemont (Alba) and Perigord. Italy and France have long been known for their truffle find due to media attention. In Alba the largest truffle found is auctioned annually. Truffles are also harvested in Croatia and Turkey. The best-known place for truffle hunting in Koratia in Istria. The peninsula is the largest of the northern Adriatic and is a popular destination not only because of its truffle finds. In Istria, truffle hunting is only permitted with a trade license. This quota-based harvest was introduced to preserve the stock of truffles.
But truffle lovers know that truffles can be found almost anywhere in the world. From Australia to New Zealand to America, truffles have become a treasured commodity everywhere. Countries such as Iran and Greece have also become part of the worldwide truffle search. Even Austria and Switzerland can be registered as truffle countries on the list.
The northern half of Switzerland offers an extensive area for truffle hunting. Burgundy and autumn truffles can be found there, which grow near their host plants beech, oak and hazel bushes. In Austria, the truffle search is similar to that in Germany. Here, the black gold is subject to the country’s mushroom regulations and commercial and private truffle hunting and harvesting are prohibited.
Germany used to be considered a truffle country for a long time. The soils in large parts of Germany are calcareous and the extensive deciduous forests would be a huge treasure trove of native truffle species.
Challenges of the truffle search
So pigs look like the perfect helpers for hunting for the truffles, but they have been replaced by dogs. Probably the biggest disadvantage of a truffle pig is that they are not very cautious when digging out the truffles. The truffles stimulate a great desire in the female pig through the sexual scent of a boar, and so it has often happened that they caused great damage to the root fungi or even devoured their found prey.
The truffle search in such a case is completely in vain. The most common method to prevent this is to put something similarly tasty, such as a corncob, into the mouth of the truffle pig before it can eat its prey. This gives enough time to secure the mushrooms while the truffle pig sneezes at its food.
Another disadvantage is that pigs do not have the endurance that dogs do.
How to get the best from a truffle
- Prefer fresh truffles purchased from a retail or specialty market
- Buy after mid-December to find more mature products
- If you buy canned truffles, make sure it is labeled “boil first
- ” for a more aromatic product
- Pay attention to the labels: the usual name and the scientific name of the truffle must appear there (for example Tuber melanosposrum for black truffle)
- Consume the truffle quickly – the fresh products keep 10-15 days maximum in the refrigerator
- Protect your tubers in an airtight Tupperware box. It can be put eggs, rice or oil to add the scent of truffles.
- You can also freeze the truffle for later consumption. In this case, slice the mushroom into strips and keep them in an airtight box or freezer bag. Note that freezing causes the truffle to lose some of its aromas as well as its firm texture.
- Avoid cooking truffles: prefer raw truffle.