I am a Professional Truffle Hunter and I train dogs to find them. AMA
Like the title says, I make my living from hunting truffles and teaching dogs how to find them. You can find my company online at http://toilandtruffle.com/ I will try to answer as many of your questions as possible!
Most "truffle eaters", and members of the media have rarely ever tried anything else but Alba whites and Perigords, but it is a completely subjective experience. I have a good friend who thinks all truffles are gross and she wants nothing to do with the little treasures we find. But there are great truffles that can be found in any number of places.
I am actually based out of Seattle, Washington but the truffles here are called Oregon Truffles because that is where the mycologists who have studied them extensively are located. We have them in Wa, and in California and BC as well- they are just much less studied in these places and we have to do a lot more legwork to find suitable habitat because it hasn't been explored and documented yet.
Often truffles elsewhere are considered inferior because they have not been harvested properly (and this is a can of worms in the industry- I am sure we have a subreddit on here somewhere). Most people have not had good, or dog-harvested, native truffles, OR properly harvested Chinese truffles (t. indicum, t. sinensis or t. himalayensis) for that matter.
The ones they have tried have been raked up when immature, and as such, are not at their peak ripeness. While some will argue you can 'ripen' a truffle, I equate this sticking a green tomato in the fridge and expecting it to taste good a week later. It changes the flavor profile. We are trying to run some experiments measuring the volatile compounds released during this process to better understand it.
Oregon truffles are just as good, they just different. Unsavory characters some time ago actually sold Oregon winter white truffles on the market as Italian Alba truffles- and many people were not the wiser.
I prefer to be open minded about other species of truffles until I have tried them. I finally smelled a ripe, properly harvested Chinese truffle (after having only consumed sub-par ones for years), and I thought it smelled great. It is about ripeness. Not to say different varieties don't have different aromas/flavors.
There are culinary varieties in NY and on the eastern Seaboard. Tuber lyonii- the Pecan truffle can be found in the wild there, as well as some other tasty varieties in smaller quantities.
I read on your site that you work on truffle plantations. Wouldn't the truffles be put out on a grid so they would be easy to find and harvest? Why would they need a dog to hunt them out?
Because they grow underground only dogs can detect when they are ripe as we train them to find to do so. If you harvest them when they are not ripe they have no value whatsoever. Some people are working on other "sniffing devices" but the technology isn't there yet can't beat the accuracy of a dog.
What about pigs?
Pigs are good too from what I understand but they have a habit of wanting to eat what they find
Pigs can be very destructive with their rooting around- so can dogs if not done correctly. Pigs are good at finding them- but dogs are perhaps easier to train not to eat them. Pigs are outlawed in Italy and Australia (I think that is new in Australia) for truffle hunting.
Those are not real truffles if I am correct.
There are hundreds of kinds of truffles in the world. Each species tastes different, as do individual truffles with that species. Generally they are described as having an 'umami' flavor.
They can be fruity, earthy, cheese-like, garlicky, oilly, have wine notes etc. For Example, the Oregon Black truffle (Leucangium carthusianum) is often descirbed as tasting like pineapple or vanilla with tropical fruits.
Perigord Truffles taste very earthy to me- kind of like a delicious dirt.
Is tasting like whisky where you have to really think about the flavors to come up with descriptors like "fruity" or do they distinctly taste like what you describe?
I can be like that- but with the Oregon Blacks- with some I have had- Pineapple is an overwhelming smell. When we are hunting one, sometimes I can even smell it in the air when there is one nearby, or has been unearthed. And then I am like, Come on dogs! it is here somewhere!
Can I buy one truffle?
You bet! They are sold by weight.
Cool. What's the smallest ones you've ever found and around what price range was it in?
The smallest ones you couldn't really even do anything with. We have found stuff that is the size of a pin head. The dogs find everything!
If you actually are planning on eating them I recommend at least a 1/4 to 1/2 ounce depending on what you are doing with it. When we sell at farmers markets we sell by the gram and small truffles can be like 5 grams- so about $7 or $8.
Well I've never eaten it before but I've always wanted to try it. Is ordering online impossible for truffles?
Find a good restaurant, and check out their menu online - should be able to find a taste somewhere. Very distinct, and absolutely delicious.
This is mostly true and great advice, but... when it comes to PNW truffles, despite what Alana and I and many others are doing, the "industry" is still buying raked truffles from destructive idiots, en masse. A very tiny fraction of the truffles on the market from the PNW are dog-harvested. The rest are raked. Raked truffles are harvested mostly prematurely, as the truffles take several months to develop and mature, and during that time have no aroma to give them culinary value. Raked truffles are sold indiscriminately, and thus your local chefs may be buying truffles through their normal distribution channels, from companies like Mycological Natural Products, who frankly don't give a shit about quality. They make bold statements about sustainability and quality, but it's all BS. They (and the whole mushroom industry in the PNW) buy and sell tons of mushroms, plants, and truffles at rock-bottom prices from desperately poor people and mark them up to sell to high-end customers, never once acknowledging that the truffles are raked from the ground, generally illegally, from private property, without permission... creating tons of drama and bad press.
It may seem like marketing, but please note that my contact info is nowhere in this thread. I'm just telling things like they are.
You may go to a restaurant and sit down and pay lots of money for PNW truffles only to find that they are bland and not very exciting.
ALWAYS ASK WHETHER THE TRUFFLES WERE RAKED OR DOG-HARVESTED.
I also know of one other distributor who tells people they have dog harvested truffles, but I know where there are getting them- and they definitely are raked.... Le sigh. It can be very frustrating.
We are setting up our online shop right now should be up in a week or so- tech stuff always takes a while- but email us at [email protected] and I can talk to you about specifics. We can send you just one. We have frozen right now but I am hoping to get some fresh ones beginning of next week.
Cool around how much would that one be? Can it be through PayPal because I don't really know if I can trust that website
yes- that is how we sell. Paypal. email us and I'll get you more details.
What is your opinion on pigs, I've heard that pigs are better for hunting truffles, since they do not want to eat the truffle.
Other way around. Pigs eat them like they were born to do it. Because they were. You could probably train a pig not to eat them- pigs are exceptionally smart, but I don't really want to shove my hand down the throat of a 400 lb sow trying to get a truffle out....
You see lots of little old french men with Pigs, Big sticks and missing digits on their fingers....
Some dogs do eat them too. Dogs are easier to manage however.
I commend you on your efforts... LOL. And Hi! I did one of these a few years ago with one of my accounts, and I believe my friend Loren did one as well, though his wasn't as a "professional".
Have fun! I'm gonna link this a bit and see what happens.
Hi. :) yeah- this will be interesting- I will look yours up :) Never done anything like this before- I am normally a reddit reader not 'user' shall we say. But I am bored and don't want to do actual work I need to have done by next week. AHHHH procrastination.
How long does it take to fully train a dog, on average?
What happens when a dog unburies a truffle not yet ready for harvest? Do you place it back in the ground or the link with the micetus is already beyond repair so you take it anyway? Or, the truffle can create a new micetus web and therefore it can be convenient to transfer the truffle somewhere more convenient for you?
Every dog is different, and it depends what you want it to do- whether you are hunting for fun or like we are, as job. The training for us is never ending. There are always aspects of your dogs (or your) performance you can work on.
We teach online training classes (seen here http://toilandtruffle.com/?page_id=525), and in person, and those last about 4- 8 weeks. In that time you can have a dog that would be ready to hunt in the field- that doesn't mean they will find anything necessarily. Some dogs have a big disconnect between practicing in the field and finding real truffles. To overcome that hurdle takes time and positive experiences in a 'hot' environment to build confidence.
To have a super duper hunting machine can take years- but again, some dogs it can be a lot faster.
In answer to your other question: Once a truffle is moved at all, it is disconnected from the mycelium network and will no longer continue to grow. The dogs only find ripe ones, and unlike some folks who use dogs, we only harvest exactly where our dogs indicate. We don't dig around elsewhere nearby so we don't find many unripe ones. If we do- I will often leave it for other critters/ bacteria/ fungi etc to have.
Alright Folks- the Truffle dogs are demanding bedtime. I must offer them turn down service and a mint on their pillows. Please ask away though and I will get the questions in the Am.
Do you also process the truffles into truffle oil and sell it? Who are your typical customers, restaurants?
Making good truffle oil with real truffles is difficult. Most truffle oil has no real truffles in it. I have a new method I am going to try this year mostly for just personal consumption and gifts to friends until I get the specs the way I want them- as once you sell it in a bottle you need to have a commercial kitchen etc etc. I have a couple of colleagues who make nice ones currently I can recommend. I do make truffle training solutions for students to work with, and truffle salts.
My typical customers are restaurants- we sell directly to chefs- but we also are working on some deals perhaps with distributors for the future. We will sell to small outfits like local grocers or anyone who wants them. But mainly Chefs and the occasional foodie
Most truffle oil has no real truffles in it
Can you explain this any further? What is in most truffle oil?
Most truffle oil doesn't even have 1% "truffle oil" in it. It's synthetic. Sometimes there is a small bit of dried truffle in the bottle.
You're confused because the marketing is deceptive. The bottle can actually say "truffle aroma" when all it contains is vegetable oil and a bit of 2,4-dithiapentane. It's infuriating and gross.
It is a petroleum based derivative as well. Super gross.
You can actually infuse the truffles into butter by putting them in the same container as the butter, but the flavor will eventually fade.
I've had truffle butter that was indirectly infused then stored in a freezer that was still strongly aromatic after 4 years.
I know someone who gentle cooks it into the butter as well. Cooking is not my forte- but I am experimenting. Chickenofthewoods here has WAY more experience with that.
What's the most money you've made off a single find?
These are Oregon Black and White truffles I sell mostly- not the mind numbingly expensive Italian White Truffles (Tuber magnatum pico)
one sale $1,300. One Truffle: $150
confident dogs (which can be situational- so that is a tough one to analyze without help), dogs that are curious, independent, and dogs that are food motivated or toy motivated tend to excel.
You can teach most dogs not to eat them, it just takes patience. One day this year I swear I lost over 1/2 lb to my puppy who was over excited as she just gobbled them up before I could get there. We are working on that :)
How did you get into such a field?
Long story (which I can elaborate on as time allows). I have been wanting to do something like this my entire life, I just didn't know how to meld my various passions and interests into something sustainable. It all kind of just started to snow ball into something real about 4 years ago.
The quick answer is I love science, love animals (started working with animal behavior in a professional way) lived in Italy, got a chance to work with truffle Hunters there. Came back, got a dog, he needed a job. Worked with some folks down in Oregon to help train him, started foraging again here and things snowballed from there.
What kind of dogs do you use?
Personally I have 1 large black retriever type Mix, an Australian Shepherd, and 2 Lagotto Romagnolo (Italian Truffle hunting dogs- yes it is a breed). With the company we have several more Lagotto, a Aussie GSD Cross, a golden Retriever, and a Puggle!
Any dog can do it though- it is more about personality than breed.
Not all of those dogs mind you are field ready yet. About 4 of them are.
Very cool, I have an aussie they are great!
I love Aussies. Being stock dogs they tend to be sight motivated which can be more difficult to train- but it TOTALLY depends on the dog.
Have you considered using a terrier type dog? I have a little terrier mutt from the pound and her nose is CONSTANTLY smelling. She digs up all kinds of critters in the grass (as she has the predisposition bred into her).
Terriers are usually AWESOME at this. They are so persistent and confident. My female Lagotto does that too. Lolo the lizard hunter we call her.
Yes I have considered it, but until I get more space on a bigger piece of land, or a bigger house, I am already maxed out. I cannot realistically care for another dog full time plus students dogs that come to stay with us for training. My boyfriend said no more.... Terriers can be great at this. Another fun sport you should check out with your terrier is BarnHunt. Really fun I have heard. I am going to start my Australian Shepherd doing that soon.
I live in Oklahoma and someone offered to let me bring her out to mouse their barn. She is really crazy about anything that she gets a scent of, she just wants to know where it is, what it is, and where it has been. She's very fiesty at 13 lbs.
Look up Barn Hunt- your pup would probably LOVE it. I am excited to try my Aussie who is much the same way about any small critter or anything that moves.
I hear it gets pretty ruff'n'tumble during Oregon truffle season. Do you carry a gun? Any dangerous encounters?
In Washington we have been lucky- fewer problems for the most part so far- but I have heard stories that are unpleasant. I also have been lucky to not be involved in incidents involving some of those individuals such as people on meth out raking truffles for mushroom buyers for pennies. I tend to stay away from the known truffle areas unless I am on a contract job or in a group and thus avoid those issues.
Several of my colleagues in Oregon do Pack though. I do not despite some family members would rather that I would, as I am a small female usually alone in the woods. I have mixed feelings about it. I have changed my hunting habits in the past few years to reflect this. Luckily I harvest mostly on private land and I have a few good spots that are well protected that no one knows truffles even are near by and it is not a big concern. But I am always aware of my surroundings. I was freaked out for the first couple of years because of stories the Tiber company employees would tell me- and I am out on those logging roads sometimes- but like I said, I have found some safer more productive spaces- so I am happy with those for the moment.
There are also always dangers for the dogs. People use traps which can maim or even kill your dog. I heard through the grapevine that a puppy this year was caught in one and severely hurt. It is very hard to rescue your dog when you are panicked about the situation. I am practicing with some of these traps- as are many of us who do go out and hunt so we can be prepared for that eventuality.
You also have to be aware of other wildlife. It's not bears I am afraid of- they leave you alone- although I finally saw one this year and promptly removed myself as dogs and bears do not make a happy combo. It's the cougars. I've been stalked, but it's not even the adults, its the stupid young cougars in spring that don't know how to hunt that are likely to watch you. It is a concern- but again- this is one of the reasons I have picked different spots. Not to say if I didn't have an awesome site in heavy cougar territory I wouldn't visit it.
There are other things too-One of my dogs was poisoned this year out in the field. It was my Large 80 lbs Retriever. Had it been one of the Lagotto puppies, my Vet said they would have died. As it was we were very lucky he pulled through. It was VERY scary.
And then my working Lagotto sliced her paw pad on a piece of tin or glass effectively taking her out for the rest of the season. There are a lot of weird things that can happen and I have heard amply creepy stories from timber employees about the land they work on and bunkers they find in the forest, etc etc.
It keeps life interesting.
You should at least carry some bear spray. There's nothing wrong with having something to turn to when your backs against the wall. I have a friend who wanders off alone into the back country of BC very often. He carries a distress flare gun. Reckons it'll put the bejesus into anything and he's ex British special forces!
Thanks for a very interesting AMA btw :)
No Problem! I do actually have bear spray and along with my Gps and extra batteries (and water etc) I try never to leave it in the car. And I have a very large knife. Flares are a good idea though. I will look into that. Good idea.
Where did the poison come from?
We don't know. But I have my theories and they are pretty gross. He was out of my sight for only 30 seconds. He is trained not to eat random stuff in the woods- and he normally doesn't....
In Italy this is not uncommon. People leave out tainted meat to specifically kill truffle dogs. Competition is fierce. It is a serious problem there.
Can I have RYU please.
Be careful what you wish for!!!
That made my day though :) I have a very very small Ryu Fan club. It consists of about 4 people- 5 now counting you!
He is a super sweet and SUPER intelligent dog, but he is extremely difficult as well because he is very reactive. He is my project dog. Poor guy has had a hard life passed around a ton because no one could handle him. What do people expect from a high energy herding breed! He has come a very long way in the last year, but we still have a long way to go.
He is gorgeous! (and I am not a dog person!)
He is very pretty- but not fluffy like your typical Aussie. Thanks. I had nothing to do with it :) He is also very dainty and cat like- very light on his feet. He is my little tyrant. Wish I had him as a puppy- would have loved to have seen him as a little puff ball.
He is a working dog. We started him on stock a few weeks ago and he is a natural. His truffle finds will support his herding habits :) It is really amazing to watch him move sheep. I need to get him a sheep.
What types of truffles do you hunt for?
In the wild we hunt for Oregon winter white truffles(Tuber oregonense), Oregon Black truffles (Leucangium carthusianum), and Oregon spring white truffles (Tuber gibbosum).
On orchard type settings we hunt for Perigord Truffles (Tuber melanosporum), Burgundy Truffles (Tuber aestivum/unicatum), and soon Bianchetto truffles (Tuber borchii), Pecan Truffles (Tuber lyonii), and anything else anyone would want us to find....
I am saddened by your omission of Kalapuya brunnea, though I think I understand that you have not found them yet?
The Browns are some kick-ass truffles.
I have also had chefs serve up other Leucangium species, but they certainly aren't on anyone's maps or radar yet.
Oh no you are right of course- I don't hunt for them simple because we have never found one yet up here. I would LOVE to find Kalapuya brunnea- probably one of my favorites. I would be in danger of eating all the ones I find.
Those three mentioned are the taste-y varieties we have found that are of interest to people in any quantity. I mean we have found melanogaster (which some people like, but I couldn't stand having it in the car. The smell was so intense it made me ill- If you want them let me know- next time I go there they are all yours) and a few others but not in any kind of quantity. And the Leucangium brunnea you are probably talking about- I have my eye out for at our Black spots- but my partner or I have yet to find anything like that.
Do you have to train the dogs for each individual species of truffle?
in answer to your question- you don't 'have to' but it increases your chances of success of finding truffle varieties you want. And we are all about setting ourselves up for success when it comes to the dogs.
We like to, to be sure the dog understands it is supposed to alert on all of the trained varieties. We train the dogs on all of the species we want them to find. Truffles give off gases and while truffle species share similar volitile compounds, they also have slight differences- just as each individual truffle will have a slightly different genetic make up.
My practical answer to this question is to state my experience with my dog, Appa. If I introduce him to the truffle briefly, and we go through a habitat with the truffle present, he will find it. He won't find matsutake mushrooms or my cell phone in the same way - he's not a trained scent dog. But most of the members of Tuber have similar aroma profiles, at least chemically, and the dogs are detecting these common compounds.
I trained Appa on Oregon Blacks, and then a year later on Winter Whites, and he immediately began finding Oregon Browns and he needed very little encouragement to find the Spring Whites.
Altogether, he has found about 12 species of truffles. In fact, several truffles he finds are simply an annoyance, but it's difficult to discourage him, lest he lose interest in the overall game.
Appa is a good example of how most dogs will act. They will locate other truffles based on a similar compounds they share. This year we found a bunch of other truffle varieties that are not edible or desirable. Eventually you can train a dog to ignore other species you do not want- but I haven't even done that yet with my dogs because just like lard_pwn said, you don't want to discourage them- so you ave to be very careful about how you do it- and I honestly, haven't had the time.
Simplified, how do you train a dog to hunt truffles. Also could the same training be applied to Morels, Chanterelles or any other species?
It is similar to training other kinds of nosework. Teach the scent with a reward association and then make it harder. Then go outside and make it harder. It keeps getting more and more difficult.... The same training can definitely be applied to other kinds of mushrooms but the dog will probably air scent as opposed to track.
When you're working do you just go out in the woods with the dogs off leash and wait for them to alert you? What's the process?
Depends on the dog- some dogs do not work well off leash- and with one of my dogs, it depends on the terrain and his mood that day. One of my dogs I may never be able to have off lead in the woods (the Aussie) because he is so fast god forbid something peak his interest like a bear- his recall is not 100%. He however is a great dog to work on Orchards because on lead he is super methodical and calm.
Another example: on super steep terrain with my little lagotto Lolo she is so fast that if she finds something I can't get there fast enough before she has moved on again. She is impatient. We are working on that. So she gets worked on lead at the moment mostly- I will bounce back and forth with her off and on lead. Also because earlier this year she ate a bunch and I have to be there right next to her in order to discourage that and modify her behavior when she finds one- part of her training.
I like to have the dogs off lead, if possible, so they can 'quarter' which is a behavior where the dog runs back and forth searching for a scent column. That way when they find something they can follow it unencumbered by me dragging along behind them.
On Orchards I almost always work on lead as I need to be sure the dog checks every single tree- and then I will let them off to search that way as well.
Some dogs are slow and methodical and will plod along nicely until they find something. Currently I do not have one of those. We have a puppy in training still who will be that way- but he is not field ready yet.
And as for how we start the hunt: We have a cue we use to get them started, but the dogs have been conditioned to working in the forest- they know when we pull up to certain spots that this is what is going on. It is search for things, find them, and then play time.
You've got an amazing job. Keep being awesome!
Ha. Thanks. I will try.
Can truffles be grown/cultivated?
That is a pandora's box- and a HUGE topic in of itself. People are trying. It is considered experimental farming. Some kinds are currently being cultivated in Europe, and with limited success so far here in the US. the short answer is it is still considered extremely experimental farming. High Risk, High Reward. Limited success thus far, but the science continues to develop. The more we try and succeed (or Fail) the more we learn.
See the following thread: http://www.reddit.com/r/AskCulinary/comments/12yer1/truffle_oil/
Has the History Channel approached you about a reality show yet?
Last year a bunch of us were approached by various producers for various projects but nothing has really come from it (That I know of). A mini docu spot- but I don't know what else is going on with that. That's often how pitches work though. You Tube Fungal GOLD.
I would honestly say now that the industry is developed enough where there is enough drama going on to make it interesting and you could make a show from it. A few years ago, I would say you could do it but it might be a bit dull- following a dude with dogs in the woods..... but now it would be amusing- and we have started to find stuff on the planted orchards- which is huge. In the industry we have a lot of awesome and quirky personalities (A LOT OF THEM), and a lot of strong personalities- and we all pretty much know each other.
For harvesters you've got the foragers and then you have the dog people- who don't always get along and have different agendas. Myself, I am somewhat in-between. Then you have the farmers and the guys who grow the trees who have a interesting relationship with each other as well. And then even within the dog people you have trainers, and breeders of Lagotto, and people who think of this as a get rich quick scheme, and others who have really invested the time and energy to try and make this kind of farming work.
And there are things now that weren't happening before-- new people are starting to 'try' to do this and don't know the rules and etiquette (such as poaching spots for example) and are pissing people off, so drama ensues etc etc. Ripe for the plucking. People think it is easy and you will be rich being a truffle hunter. It couldn't be further from the truth.
Each of us does this, whether it is the foraging, or working with dogs, etc because we love doing it- it is a lifestyle, not a get rich quick scheme.
But yes- History Channel Approach us... we are willing.
Man I love this topic! A few questions:
(1) Do people understand what makes truffles grow in certain places yet? Is it related to climate or soil type or what?
(2) Most of the stuff I hear about RE: truffles is from Italy...Is Italy the holy grail for truffles? Are they more abundant/better quality there, or is it just that there is more demand for them from within Italy/Europe?
(3) Do you know of any work that's being done to cultivate truffles outside of the wild?
(1)- The science is evolving. There is no manual on what makes them grow. It is a combination of things-AND it is different for different species- and different host trees. We know that soil and geology high in lime are a factor for some species- as well as climate and perhaps altitude. There are some things that are new that we are learning, but I am under contract and I would violate a confidentiality clause if I said much more on that score :/ sorry.
As it becomes public knowledge- which I expect it will in the next year or so I can comment more.
(2)- It is a partly historical and partly a brilliant marketing campaign. Italy being the mecca for all luxury goods. For whatever reason, Italy has lots of truffles and lots of different kinds of truffles. You don't hear much about Hungarian truffles- but they are there- the same species. It is one of the only places in the world you can find Tuber magnatum pico-- the other being Croatia. There are also varieties in Italy you won't find being sold outside of Italy. Like who has tried and Bagnoli truffle? But they are good.
As for quality being better? Eh- that is subjective. You can have equally good if not better Perigords from Spain or Tennessee! We are finding with our native varieties that there is an issue of terroir, so that may play a factor. But truffles from one field in italy may taste different than the ones from the next town over.
(3) There is tons of work being done to cultivate outside of wild harvesting- it is still, however, considered experimental farming. In Australia they have been cultivating Perigords since the early 90s and only now really getting any notice. In the US and Canada (I work closely with the Canadian growers given my proximity) we have several people growing and inoculating trees. There are places in Tennessee and North Carolina that produce. A place in Idaho that for the second year has produce T. borchii. This winter a perigord was finally found on a planted 12 year old orchard in Oregon and we found 3 perigords on a 8 or 9 year old orchard in BC. Those are the first on the West coast. People are trying and the science continues to develop and we learn more every year.
How much money do you make in a year from truffles? From training dogs?
It varies a lot, as the industry in the US where I am located is very small and just really starting to get any legs under it. It is not NEARLY what people think. Last year it was under $20k but all of our dogs got hurt and we are still building markets and educating people about truffles. It has been as low as $12k and it could be as high as $60k, but I don't foresee it going much beyond that realistically.
Even my colleagues in Italy who are harvesters don't make a ton doing it. The people who seem to profit the most would be the distributors.
The majority of my income currently is related to training.
Do you have health insurance?
I do. I buy it myself through costco as a small business. It is expensive. Once the new marketplaces for that get set up I am going to look into finding a cheaper solution.
Insurance through Costco? Tell me more..
I don't even remember- but you can buy health insurance through them as a small business- I would have to look into the details- I set it up some years ago. I can look into it and get back to you.
Does it ever annoy you that in a box of chocolates there are "chocolate truffles", yet those chocolates are not truly truffles?
Side note- Chocolate truffles were actually created in the late 1890's France and were a satire on the burgeoning truffle industry there. How A delicious chocolate treat mocks a mushroom- I do not know.
Any experience with hallucinogenic truffles. Also why don't you cultivate them instead of hunting seems a lot easier but I'm sure I'm missing something. I watched a documentry once on how they made 'shrooms' illegal in Amsterdamn and then they immediately just switched to cultivating magic truffles instead which have the same effect but are legal.
What you are referring to as Hallucinogenic truffles are not actually 'truffles' at all, though they resemble them- and that is why they are called that. They are sclerotia. We do not hunt sclerotia and I actually have no idea even where they are found.
Also does America or any other country care about you harvesting truffles for a profit on their property, is there a high tax for doing so. Thanks for doing this AMA one of the better ones for sure.
Well, the truffles we harvest are not illegal- I don't know if that's what you are trying to get at? We do not harvest hallucinogenic truffles- Which again are not truffles at all.
I harvest mostly from private property ALWAYS with the owners permission, and when I do harvest on public land I follow the commercial mushroom gathering laws, and I have permits to do so and to resale. I get taxed on my sales, not on my harvesting (aside from permits)
I am around- I keep checking this thread so I will keep responding as time allows- and I am just training my own dogs today and paperwork so it's a 'light' day.
I LOVE my Lagotti. Wouldn't trade them for the world. They are great all around dogs, and as pets. They are a nice size. They are the smallest dogs I have owned, and it is nice they are super portable. My female is 30 lbs, and the male is slightly smaller than my standard Aussie. Very similar to Spanish Water dogs. They are about the same size or a little smaller. Most European countries have a similar breed. The Portuguese have one, the French have one, the Spanish have one, this is just the Italian version.
As for temperament- I just advise you be careful where you get it. Some breeders do it for money and don't pay attention to certain line traits, not to mention genetic testing for epilepsy, hips, eyes, incorrect coat- if you need a list of breeders I think are great- let me know where you live and I can recommend several. Email or message me.
Overall they are great dogs. It also depends if you want a work, show, or pet dog. Any breeder worth their salt will match you up with a pup that fits your personality and lifestyle. Just be absolutely honest with them. But not all breeders are good.
There are working lines, there are show lines, and then there is at least one line (although I know several dogs that exhibit this trait) that is VERY reserved. One of my Lagotti is this way. He is extremely reserved and would be a challenge for any non trainer to own and work with. He is going to have to be heavily socialized his entire life. He's a super sweet guy and will be a great working dog some day, but he has social issues. This is not uncommon- and that is why you need to pick a good breeder. Do you homework. Ask questions.
Overall they are awesome dogs, and I recommend them to everyone interested, especially if you have allergies and need a 'non-shedding' dog. No dog is hypoallergenic, but Lagotti are less so than most.
If you have specific questions about personality/ temperament, let me know. I have worked with quite a few so I can help answer any questions you might have.
I heard from someone that male pigs are used to find truffles because they smell like pig vagina... Is this true?
No. No. No.
Female pigs were used traditionally because truffles give off a chemical compound as a gas, which is similar to a male pig sex hormone.
What is your favorite way to eat truffles?
Seriously depends on the species of truffle in question as they have wildly different flavor profiles on the food they compliment.
One of my favorite ways a great chef taught me: Oregon Black truffle icecream (infused with vanilla as well)- with a sweet chocolately balsalim glaze
Basically you steep Leucangium carthusianum (Oregon Black Truffles) in milk and then make the icecream from that milk. HEAVENLY.
Otherwise I really like any variety on pasta prepared very simply- just a bit of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil and Parmesan or pecorino --or in a mushroom style risotto. Good, classic style dishes
What type of government regulations are there?
In terms of harvesting, very few- but that may be changing soon in some areas. You have to follow harvesting guidelines like you would in any other state for harvesting mushrooms. (Some harvesters do- some don't). Some people 'say' they are harvesting for personal use and then turn around and sell them which is technically illegal, but who enforces it?
A lot of people harvest on private land without permission.
There are quite a few shady characters, but luckily there are lots of areas they don't know about yet.
In terms of selling- also very few regulations (read as in none) as long as your product doesn't have any packaging of any kind you are free from food code laws etc. As soon as you put a label on it, or in a jar, or do something to it- you have all kinds of other food regulations you have to follow- for good reason.
What do you mean by this, "any packaging of any kind"? Is a plastic baggie considered packaging? If a seller goes this route, how do they make sales, straight from a big bowl?
Also, I was REALLY excited to see this AMA: I've been wanting to go truffle hunting for years with a proper hunter (not on one of those overpriced guided tours in Italy). I guess what I'm saying is that I want to become friends with a truffle hunter.
How did you get involved with the scene in Italy? Would you have any recommendations on how to become acquainted with the culture? I currently live in Germany, but I'm unaware of any truffle activity here. I do have the advantage of knowing a couple Italians, though!
There are truffles in Germany- and due to climate change- maybe more coming! I believe a Perigord was found this winter in southern Germany- and I know folks in Switzerland find them and summer varieties.
Since you live in Germany- try becoming friends with foodies- of chefs often they will be able to point you towards foragers and people in the truffle community. I have a student I am currently teaching in Austria. Not close- but I could connect you with her.
Most of the folks I know are in Italy, or North Africa or Eastern Europe, and a few Spanish folks- I don't know many French harvesters as of yet. I got involved with the Italians a number of different ways. First, I lived there. Second I work with Lagotto Breeders in Italy and they are a fantastic resource.
-That is another way- get connected to Lagotto People- there are plenty in Germany- several very good breeders. Email me specifically and I may be able to find you some actual contact info.
As for Packaging: Packaging of any kind means that- so yes- a big bowl. After someone buys it I can put it in a paper bag to carry home, but not before. These are US laws though- and specifically Washington State Laws I am quoting. You don't want to put truffles in a plastic bag- that is a good way to make them rot.
A lot of people use pigs, why is that, are they better than dogs?
As I understand it (having never actually worked with any pigs-in anyway other than petting and eating them) is that pigs- particularly sows don't need to be trained at all- they seek out the truffles when ripe because that's what pigs do. They root. Pigs have some major drawbacks however- the most obvious being size. In Italy you are not allowed to use pigs anymore.
Sorry to be so late to the convo. Do you use the same mycellium influsion to seed your truffles as the piedmontian ones? Or are they hybrid strains developed for your specific oak (?) forest habitats? I tried to innoculate some forest soil a black truffle strain a few years back, and the local fungal underbase went ballistic. I wouldn't DARE injest the outcome.
- Why breed of truffle dogs do you use? Have you tried Vietnamese Potbelly pigs? Or do you just go out with a spade and a prayer?
I do not inoculate anything. I leave that to the professionals and scientists. They inoculate perigords, burgundies, and borchii as of right now- those are the only ones that have had any success (that I know of). The piedmontian variety you are referring to I assume is Tuber magnatum pico- The White Alba truffle. People have inoculated trees with them- they mycelium has shown up on roots- but they cannot get them to fruit and no one knows why. They are trying. It is the holy grail of the truffle industry. Currently that truffle can only be found in Italy and Croatia- no where else, and you can't 'grow' it. I am skeptical of anyone who says otherwise unless I see the scientific data and it has been verified.
I do not use pigs- but someday when I have a farm- I want to get one to try- as I have never trained a pig before. For dogs, I like to use dogs from a shelter when possible- one is an Australian Shepherd, the other is a retriever mix, but I also have 2 Lagotto Romagnolo. I got them as kind of an experiment. Besides being good hunters- which is part personality and part training, they are just lovely dogs.
What about pigs? Do you train them too?
Somebody asked once, and I said honestly, I dind't have the experience training pigs I did with dogs, but I would love to try if they were amenable. Pigs are super smart and are food motivated. I haven't heard back from them :/
I thought Professional Truffle Hunters used specially trained Pigs,called Truffle Hogs ?
generally not anymore. Dogs are preferred. In France they still have competitions and they are used somewhat. In Italy it is outlawed (as far as I know)
I absolutely love mushrooms and I was able to try my first I believe it was a perigord truffle and I was actually VERY underwhelmed. I do like the taste of truffle oil but the taste of the actual truffle was very subtle and didn't provide much earthiness.
Depends on a lot of things- Very likely it was an OLD truffle. They can lose aroma/ flavor over time. Part of what I do is education about things like this. People don't realize that truffles don't have a long shelf life- and people will sell you stuff they shouldn't. Some kinds lose potency as they age- Perigords being one of those. I would say find somewhere better to get it. Somewhere you can smell them first- or let us send you one. :)
What's process you use to train for that specific odor? Is it one odor or many since there is more than one kind of truffle.
I know how to train dogs for narcotics and I've done at least one odor (and partially another) with my dutchie so I'm curious if your methods are any different than what I've learned with narc. Obviously if your methods are sensitive then I understand, I just like learning new ways to train. And hey, if you're ever looking for a trainer, I'd be good for the job!
It is similar to any scent work but there are more environmental factors as you are working in heavy distraction outside. And it is the actual locating suitable habitat that is difficult- not necessarily the training. That is where we come in :) Obviously if you want to sign up for our online course- you'll get to learn all that. If you really are interested in training others Email me directly- we are looking for some people to work with in various places. It is very similar to Narc training. Modified, but same principles. Depends how you are training for Narc though. We only use positive reinforcement.
Are truffles really that heavenly to taste?
Totally subjective. Some people Love them- ME for the most part- although during the height of the season, I really want nothing to do with them in food as I am around them all day. And different kinds taste different. A lot of people around here like the Oregon black truffles- I still don't know what do to with them when I cook with them. I am trying new things!
With any luck I've not missed the bus on this one.
I have an aversion to mushrooms. From buttons to shiitake to wild morrells I've picked myself. I really, really don't like them. The only exceptions I've found so far, in terms of taste and texture, are truffles.
I've had tuber magnatum cultivated in the Drome region, as well as (if I recall correctly) Tuscony. Those were fantastic. I've had tuber melanosporum, though I don't recall exactly where they were cultivated. I want to say Spain. Very good. I also quite like grapeseed-based 100% synthetic white truffle oil for seasoning or cooking.
It sounds like you mostly harvest tuber oregonense and/or tuber gibbosum, as well as a few other varieties.
Given all of that, would you guess that I'd enjoy the truffles cultivated in the pacific northwest? Would you recommend a specific cultivar to try? Any recommendations on where to source them?
You would probably like Tuber oregonense- very similar to Tuber magnatum pico. They are out of season at the moment- but good news is they are drastically cheaper than T. magnatum pico. We have some frozen ones if you want to try that, or there are some folks who make oil out of it- but it is not always my favorite. If you want them now, I would say try frozen- otherwise wait until October/ Nov when they start to come out and try them then.
This time of year we are starting to get Tuber gibbosum. They are kind of like T. Oregonense and T. magnatum, but milder. I do not have a great spots for them in quantity- but I may have colleagues who do- message me if you are interested and I can give you more details.
Also, if you can find it- depending on where you are located (much easier if you are in Europe) you would probably like Tuber borchii- the Bianchetto truffle. It is much milder than T. magnatum, but same kind of thing. Also Burgundy truffles are in season now, but they are too mild for some. I can give you specific places to check online or in person- but message me I don't really want to just start posting websites on this thread.
Sorry, late to the party, but I find this very interesting. Are there any varieties in the Midwest, specifically Kansas and Missouri? Also, how do cook with them?
You have people who are trying to grow Burgundy and Perigord on Orchards there. You also have wild Tuber Lyonii- Pecan Truffle. I have never actually tried one- trying to get my hands on some. If you know anyone who has a Pecan orchard- that is a good place to start.
As for cooking- I don't know how Pecan truffles hold up to heat- but in general the aromas found in truffles are very delicate and you really only want to add them as an afterthought to dishes- like shaving on top of pasta or with scrambled eggs. You do want a bit of heat to bring out those compounds but you don't want to sautee them for 10 minutes or anything-- that will destroy the flavor. I remember hearing a recipe about Pecan truffles and trout. Sounded good.
Thank you for this AMA. I had the pleasure of trying truffles for the first time a couple years ago while in Rome and absolutely loved them!
My father currently has become a bit of a recreational mushroom hunter himself and would probably be very interested in truffle hunting. Anyways, say that I did want to enroll in your online training for dogs. Would I need to have truffles around in order to "train" my dog as to what he/she is looking for? Or is there another method?
You can use truffle oil- we also sell truffle scent solution for training which is made from a variety of different species. We have a European one and a domestic one- but ideally yes you would want some real truffle pieces to work with- for once your dog is ready to start working in the field.
Sweet. I'm definitely going to mention this to my dad. And we live in the PNW too (Vancouver, WA).
There are LOTS of great places down there. I have been working with quite a few land owners down in that area and we need people and dogs to harvest down there!
Do you ever pretend that there's truffles between the breasts of a woman, then try to sniff out the truffles? But then all along it turns out they're just sweater puppies?
I'm not into girls like that.
Sounds like the dogs are the professional truffle hunters and you're really more of a truffle-hunting-dog trainer...
I am their chauffeur and chef...
What would happen if truffles become mass produced? can that even happen? Can they be grown like regular mushrooms?
As of right now that is highly unlikely. The main thing is even if the science gets to a place where truffles can be produced reliably (which they cannot right now) it takes YEARS (read 7-12 yrs- although some claim 4 to 5- I have yet to see that) for the inoculated trees to start producing. Nor have all commercial varieties been grown successfully at all. The demand FAR outstrips supply.
Case Study: The Australians learned this. The Aussies managed to have a few orchards that started to produce Tuber melanosporum--The Perigord truffle-- and a few started to produce decent quantities. They were planning on shipping them all out to the Northern Hemisphere during our summer when Perigord truffles are not in Season and so get a premium. The Aussies learned however that as they started to produce perigords, local demand rose. They cannot even fulfill their local demand and so they do not export much.
As with all economic commodities there obviously will be a tipping point where supply would exceed demand, but that is a HUGE number and a long way off.
Not all species of mushrooms can be grown commercially either. I am rusty on my mycology at the moment but only Saprophytic fungi can be grown artificially as it were. Things like Chanterelles as of right now have not yet been grown commercially.
My dog looks kinda like a pig. Does that make him a natural candidate for professional truffle hunting?
Picture needed- but yes....
How do you train the dogs to find truffles? A brief outline would be enough.
The basics (This is one way anyway- there are several): imprint a scent (in our case truffles) Start indoors Start by associating the scent with a clicker and a reward Start hiding the scent in clear view and asking the dog to alert on it Progress to hiding the target in containers- dog has to alert on correct container Remove all visual ID- ask the dog to locate the scent in your house in small area- gradually make area larger Move these games outside Repeat all steps gradually increasing difficulty and distractions and size of search area Begin to bury the targets Move to forest- repeat games Go to place known to be truffle habitat and practice there! Come away with truffles!
It is more complicated than that but that is a very brief outline
Me and my mom own a lagotto and we were thinking about training him to finding truffles. I'm wondering, • About how long does it take to teach them to finding truffles?
• Can you make money of it? The courses cost quite and would you be able to make your money back?
• Where's the best place to find truffles, (countrys etc)?
Making a living off of it is extremely difficult-- which is why very few people do it-most people have day jobs- unless perhaps you live in certain parts of Italy or Croatia where the Alba truffle grows. Even then, it is very hit and miss as it is foraging and unpredictable.
You can make training costs back just through friends and family, local restaurants, etc. I would not consider it a particularly good way to make money. Depends on where you are and what truffle varieties are near you though. Some truffle varieties have more culinary value than others.
aI am not trying to discourage people, quite the opposite, but most people have unrealistic expectations and think they can live a life of retirement doing this. You cannot easily do that. It is a lot of work. I do this because I love it- not because it will make me wealthy- it won't.
Time spent training varies depending on several factors: How competent you want your dog to be (will they be hunting on orchards for business or in the forest for personal use), the personality of your dog, how much time you put into it. It can range from 4 weeks to 6 months or more- but a truly good dog takes time to develop. Most dogs can pick up the basics in a couple of weeks- but again, that does not necessarily equate to finding truffles in the wild. It is however a great way to build your relationship with your dog and boost their confidence.
Even if you never hunt in the wild you can hunt in your backyard and it is mentally stimulating for your pup- and a good conversation piece. Our online training is geared for just that- to teach basics to people who want to start hunting in the field but have no idea where to start. It goes step by step through the process so by the end your dog will likely be able to locate hidden odors in the field.
Most Lagotti I have met can do this- as can most dogs. The level of proficiency varies greatly. But with training and patience, almost any dog can do this.
Different species of truffles are found all over the world. It would be easier if you told me where you were (UK perhaps?) and I could tell you what species are in your neck of the woods.
Thanks for the response! I live in sweden, there's an island called "Gotland" where I've heard you can go for courses.
Absolutely. Gotland is famous for their Burgundy truffles- which are some of the more valuable varieties. They occur there in the wild, and in farmed situations. We have a couple of online students located in Stockholm- that are just starting. You could all get together and go out into the woods! I am sure there are Lagotto people in Sweden who would be great resources as well if you don't already know them. I know a few weeks back there was a Raduno (gathering) of Lagotto somewhere in Sweden. Might be fun to check out!
What is a truffle
For that answer I refer you to this http://toilandtruffle.com/?page_id=329
It covers the basics of truffles. Truffles 101 if you will. I could retype it all- but I have typed it so many times- It covers all the basics.
Proof? Anyone can link to a site, perhaps make a note on the site referencing this ama?
Does this work: https://www.facebook.com/ToilandTruffle?ref=hl you can see we posted it on our FB wall
Sure- one sec
So, I was under the impression, based on the word of truffle eaters and industry members in public media, that really the only truffle worth its salt is the Italian truffle and all other truffles (particularly Chinese truffles) be damned.
You're working out of Oregon - do you agree with this sentiment? Are Italian truffles really so much better?
Also, any truffles worth looking for in the US northeast, say southern New York?
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