Some American Truffles

truffler1635 at truffler1635 at
Sun Oct 29 23:47:46 EST 2000


	In any discussion of truffles, there is a danger of haute cuisine
(high kitchen) becoming hautier cuisine (snobby kitchen). The mere
mention of subterranean  truffles can cause salivation, sensory
overstimulation, and visions of long banquet tables laden with pate’ de
foie gras, truffle-stuffed scallops, and truffled turkey or goose.
	So when I joined the North American Truffling Society (NATS, PO Box
296, Corvallis, OR 97339) in 1984, I was prepared for a certain amount of
automatic inferiority complex. I had never found a real, mature (ripe)
truffle before.
	I shouldn’t have worried. NATS is as comfortable as a garden club or
church group.
	The first forage I attended was to a local christmas tree farm near
Oregon City, OR.  Under the tutelage of Henry Pavalek (1917-1987), I
found my first truffles there in January, 1985.
	During that first forage I learned that while European truffles are
found under oak, cottonwood, hazel, lime or chestnut trees; many American
truffles are found near conifers. Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii) is
both Oregon’s state tree and the common host tree of many American
	Douglas fir also hosts many false truffles, which are also abundant.
False truffles, according to David Aurora’s Mushrooms Demystified, are
usually spongy, tiny chambered truffle look-alikes. On this first truffle
forage I found several, including these:
	Endogone lactiflua is a tiny truffle-like fungi that often bleeds a
milky-white latex when cut or broken. It has some of the largest of any
fungal spores. Most people can see a few with the naked eye! Edibility
unknown, but frozen material smells like butterscotch!
	Rhizopogon parksii belongs to the largest group of false truffles.
Dr. Alexander H. Smith identified many of these fungi for the first time.
Several are edible, and are related to Suilllus mushrooms.
	Hymenogaster parksii has a whitish outer layer, or peridium, that
quickly bruises black or is easily worn off. Mature (and often immature)
specimens have a distinctive gaseous aroma similar to benzene. While
perhaps not poisonous, it is unlikely to be consumed by anyone able to
detect odors (or taste) a second time.
	Rhizopogon vinicolor was pretty close to R. parksii. The key to
identification is skin (peridium). Looking at fresh-sliced specimens
under a 10-30x hand lens, you should be able to see a distinctive
reddish-blue (or is it bluish-red?) color change, also noticed in wine
stains (think chardonnay).
	But by far the collection everyone was looking to find came near the
forage end when everyone gathered back at the porch with a nice picnic
table to allow us to compare what we found.
	That’s when a couple of marble-shaped off-white lumps rolled like
superballs around the table-top. Tubers! True truffes, in this case Tuber
gibbosum var. autumnale, or Oregon White truffles.
	They were lumpy, irregularly-roundish things, with darker canals
inset into the peridium. Some even were a little hairy when looked at
with a hand lens. They were solid and hard. Some were a little more soft,
like a gum erase compared to a hard pencil eraser. When those were cut
open, the interior showed a solid off-white to reddish-brown interior
highlighted with meandering white veins.
	A few even had odor: nutty and sweet, like fresh-roasted hazelnuts;
but also with buttery overtones and even cheesey aromas.
	So now that I had found one and had it reliably identified, what do
I do with it? Hmmm.
	Truffles have an affinity for fat, dairy, pasta and sauces. So I got
a cinnamon-raisin bagel with some cream cheese, cut the bagel, mixed the
cream cheese with grated truffle, and then spread the truffled cream
cheese on  a warmed (20-seconds in the microwave) bagel.
	Did I mention truffles are addictive?
	Since that first find, I’ve been keeping track  of the truffle
varieties I’ve found. Here are some notes on a few of the other local
	Tuber californicum, found with Western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta
var. californica) and Cascara (Cascara purshiana); usually less than an
inch wide; near globose shape (uh, that means spherical or ball-shaped,
folks); peridium (outside) grayish-black; gleba (interior) charcoal to
black with white veins; spores under 100x black.
	Tuber rufum, found with Western hazelnut (Corylus cornuta var.
californica) and Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii); sub-globose (that
means kind of elongated or squashed ball shaped); peridium staining
pinkish to red; gleba pink to reddish with white veins; spores under 100x
	Tuber sp. nov., found with Grand fir; globose to subglobose less
than an inch in diameter; up to 6 inches deep in clay soil, many pea-
	Tuber aniae, found with Douglas fir in Washington; globose to
subglobose, less than 1.5 inches in diameter; peridium grayish to
olivaceous (greenish); rare; spores under 100x dark brown or greenish-
	Tuber gibbosum var. gibbosum,  (previously T. giganteum) the
“original” Oregon White truffle, found with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga
menzesii); globose to subglobose; less than 5 inches in diameter;
peridium gray-to-greenish-black; gleba brown-green-gray-black, darkening
as spores mature; spores under 100x charcoal to black. Probably the
strongest smelling of Oregon truffles in my opinion.
	Tuber murinum, found with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii); less
than 5 inches in diameter; subglobose to irregular globose; peridium buff
to ecru; gleba slightly lighter than peridium, with white veins; spores
under 100x nearly transluscent to hyaline (that means kind of
transluscent, like opal).
	Tuber sp. nov., found with Oregon White oak (Quercus garryana); less
than 2 inches in diameter; globose to sub-globose shape; peridium light
ecru to chocolate brown; gleba off-white with white to yellowish veins;
rare; under 100x spores are light pinkish.
	Tuber sphaerosporum, found with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii);
less than 4 inches in diameter; subglobose, peridium crenulate, often
with hyaline warts or bumps; buff; gleba buff to pinkish brown, white
veins; spores under 100x greenish-gray.
	Tuber irradians, found with Lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta); less
than 1.5 inches in diameter.
	Tuber sp. nov., found with Douglas fir; less than 3.0 inches in
diameter; subglobose; peridium buff brown to ecru, tomentose, with widely
spaced external veins, often irregularly circular from 1-3mm broad.
	Tuber gibbosum, found with Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menzesii); less
than5 inches in diameter; globose to subglobose; peridium white, off-
white, reddish-brown; gleba off-white to light reddish-buff, with white
veins; sometimes tomentose or minutely warted.
	These are just some of the true truffles I’ve found. Many more have
already been found in the United States. Some of them could be in your
backyard, like:
	Tuber texense, found with pecan; gleba dark reddish-brown to nearly
black; external veins often leading into the gleba, wide; gleba is often
dark reddish-brown (similar to the peridium) to nearly black; odor of old
(but not clabbered or spoiled) milk.

c. 1999, Daniel B. Wheeler

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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