Truffles are one of the world’s most valuable foods. Each year truffles worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are dug up by lucky truffle hunters.
While there is often an element of luck involved, finding truffles requires skill, patience, and knowledge. Traditionally the truffle hunter, or Trifolau is a job that was passed down through generations. Today, thanks to the internet, much of this information is finally available to keen amateurs.
Where To Find Truffles
Truffles grow on the roots of compatible trees, so the first thing to do is head to a woods or forest that has the trees you need. Truffle producing trees can be Oak, Hazel, Chestnut, Elm or Pine. A quick search on Google will let you know if there are woods nearby where truffles have been discovered.
Truffles can be found throughout Europe and North America and Australia. More recently, truffles have been cultivated in China, but these are an inferior product.
Signs To Look For When Truffle Hunting
Hunting for truffles is an art form and it can take many years to become proficient. However, there are some subtle signs you can look out for which may indicate the presence of truffles under the soil.
When searching for black truffles you should look out for a small area on the ground with nothing growing on it. The truffle spores change the pH level of the soil, creating a small circle where nothing can grow. These are known as pianelli or witch circles.
Signs of wild boar activity can be an indicator that there are truffles nearby. Truffles are a favorite food of the boar, and their presence can mean truffles are close.
The truffle fly is another indicator of truffles. These tiny flies are found throughout Europe and lay their eggs in the soil above truffles. The larvae then burrow down and eat the truffle, so the presence of truffle flies is not always a good sign.
Find Truffles With A Pig Or Dog?
The truffle pig is a romantic image but today, everyone uses dogs. In some countries, such as Italy, it’s illegal to hunt for truffles with pigs.
Pigs are also impractical. Most pigs weigh in excess of 250lbs and will fight to eat whatever truffles they discover. Even the strongest truffle hunters will be exhausted after half an hour working with a determined pig.
Dogs are smaller, lighter and don’t try to eat the truffles. They’re also easier to train and cheaper to maintain. In short, there is no reason to be hunting for truffles with a pig anymore.
Is It Easy To Train A Dog To Find Truffles?
The best dogs to train for truffle hunting have a good nose and enjoy working with people. The most popular breeds include the Springer Spaniel, Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, and Poodle. The number one breed is the Lagotto Romagnolo which was specifically bred to hunt for truffles.
To train a dog to hunt for truffles you should aim to start at a young age. Fill an old sock or piece of cloth with some truffles and hide it somewhere in the house or garden. Each time the dog finds the sock, give it a treat as a reward. As time goes on, make it harder and harder for the dog to find the truffles.
If you prefer to buy a pre-trained dog you can expect to pay upwards of $5,000.
Can I Find Truffles On My Own?
Providing you have a dog who can sniff out truffles, you can find them on your own. Each year keen amateurs find thousands of truffles.
However, truffles are extremely rare, and many truffle hunters can spend years or even decades searching without success.
Truffle farms such as ourselves spend a great deal of time and money to ensure our trees can produce the best harvest. This means inoculating the roots with truffle spores, then carefully monitoring each stage of the growing process, from planting through to harvesting. Everything from the pH of the soil through to the amount of water the trees receive is accounted for.
Things To Beware Of Before You Hunt For Truffles
Hunting for truffles can be a dangerous business. Thanks to the money involved, some hunters can get territorial about their woods. Fights and altercations can happen between rival truffle hunters.
For this reason, lots of truffle hunters prefer to operate at night, under cover of darkness. Of course, this brings its own potential dangers. From getting lost, to twisting an ankle or even falling down a ravine, if you decide to go truffle hunting at night be sure you know the area like the back of your hand.
Successful truffle hunting dogs are highly valued too. Truffle hunting dogs are stolen each year, so if you have a good one, think about getting a tracking chip to keep it safe. Rival truffle gangs have been known to lay down poisoned traps in the hope of killing rival dogs.
Truffle hunting can be a dangerous business for both you and your dog. Be sure to do your research in advance to avoid stepping on anyone’s toes.
What To Do If You Find A Truffle
The first thing to do is get it out of the ground and put it safely in a cloth bag. After this, getting the truffle into the fridge should be a priority. Truffles are best eaten within 3 to 4 days of being dug up. Putting them in the fridge quickly can give you some vital extra time.
If you are planning to sell your truffle, you will need to speak with a local restaurant or wholesaler. If you prefer to eat it yourself or with friends, then start thinking about the recipe you will use.
If you happen to stumble upon a giant truffle, then you can give the local newspapers a call. Giant truffles are extremely valuable, and their discovery always makes for good copy.