HOW DO YOU FIND TRUFFLES?
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Truffles are difficult to find and as such are very expensive as a result! To give you an example, white truffles cost from about £700 to over £1,500 a pound, and black truffles cost from £200 to over £400 a pound.
Truffle hunters in Italy and France use pigs and mixed-breed dogs to sniff out truffles. Dogs are preferred to pigs because pigs love to eat truffles. Notice the staff held by the truffle hunter in the picture with the pig. The hunter uses the staff to force the pig to back off, once the pig has located a truffle.
Dogs like other food better than truffles, so bread and other treats are used for rewards. The night before a truffle hunt the dog is not fed so it will be eager to find truffles for the treat. Some dogs take the easy way out. They find and eat garbage buried by campers! Dogs generally do not find young truffles because the odor is too weak. The odor becomes stronger with age as the spores mature.
The value of commercial truffles means that there are laws controlling their collection. In Italy, for example, truffle collectors are tested and licensed. There, organizations of land owners called cooperatives control truffle hunting on their property. Unless you are a member of the cooperative, you can be arrested for collecting truffles from cooperative truffle beds.
Second, the right trees must be present. Truffles are formed by fungi that are partners (ectomycorrhizal) with certain trees. You will not find truffles under maples, for instance, because maples do not form ectomycorrhizae. Trees to use as clues include: pines, firs, Douglas-fir, oaks, hazel nuts, hickories, birches, beeches, and eucalyptus.
Third, truffles use animals for spore dispersal. In North America, squirrels and chipmunks are the major wild animals dispersing truffle spores. Search among the right trees for pits dug by rodents in their own hunt for truffles. Pits do not guarantee success, however! Rodents also dig pits searching for acorns, onion bulbs, and beetle grubs.
The best success results from raking around fresh pits. Look for pits not filled with leaves or other debris. I use a four-tine garden cultivator with the handle shortened to 30 inches to rake leaves off the surface and dig into the soil 3 or 4 inches (8 to 10 cm) . A good eye is required as many truffles are small and colored red, brown, white, or even black.
Do not put truffles in sealed plastic bags. If you do they will mold, get slimy, and smell bad!
NEVER EAT ANY TRUFFLE, OR OTHER FUNGUS, UNLESS IT HAS BEEN IDENTIFIED BY AN EXPERT!
You might confuse the button stage of a poisonous mushroom with a truffle, or be allergic.
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Based on an article by http://herbarium.usu.edu/fungi/funfacts/truffind.htm
Photos care of http://latrufflepig.blogspot.com/ and http://realestatepv.com/cgi-sys/suspendedpage.cgi?q=finding-truffles&page=4 and http://www.expressionsholidays.co.uk/Featured-Holidays/Truffle-hunting-in-Piemonte/ and http://www.boisdale.co.uk/members/events2/event_detail.aspx?id=50