27 Years Ago: Truffles in California

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Wed Nov 6 05:16:42 EST 2002

The following article was found recently in the archives of The
Oregonian (Portland, OR). It may well be the first reference to
truffles, and any reference to the potential for truffles as a
business. Interestingly, I didn't know anything about it.

>From The Oregonian, Feb. 24, 1975

Truffle search serious

By LACEY FOSBURGH, New York Times News Service

	SANTA ROSA, Calif. - A pair of wealthy financiers have embarked on a
hunt for buried treasure in the quiet, rolling hills north of here
where, to date, nothing more valuable than a lost arrowhead has ever
been found.
	What they're looking for is round and lumpy. It may be black or
white, the size of a gold ball or a tennis ball. It grows underground
in the calcium soil beneath oak trees and gives off a pungent smell,
like stale earth inside a cave.
	This curious, unlikely treasure is a truffle, a mushroom-like fungus
and gourmet's delicacy that retails here and in New York for $200 a
	Among the rarest and most expensive of all choice foos, truffles are
found exclusively in two small provinces in Europe, Perigord in
southern France and Alba in Italy.
	None, for instance, have ever been found in the United States and
certainly none have ever turned up here in Sonoma county, theheart of
California's grape country, a quiet pastoral place where cows rome and
vast acres of land are owned by ranchers and lumber companies.
	Yet two of the wealthiest bankers in northern California and a dozen
of their friends throughout the state and Midwest have formed a
corporation to find and sell native American truffles - if such a
thing exists.
	They have already bought two truffle dogs and acquired access to
200,000 acres of land here that they regard as potential truffle turf.
They have gone to Italy once to study the truffle industry and are
planning a second trip in April.
	It did not take them long to find out also that botanists at the
University of California at Davis and the University of Oregon in
Eugene, were excited by their project. One of them, Dr. James M.
Trappe, at Eugene, even told them he had come across truffles in the
intestines of squirrels.
	Ever since then, the bankers have worked closely with Trappe. They
have commissioned hunters to kill some of the wild boars that still
roam in areas of Northern california. And, several weeks ago, the
bodies of seven animals were frozen and shipped to Trappe, who plans
to analyze their stomachs in the search for truffles.
	"This could turn out to be a dud or a million-dollar industry,"
explained Henry Trione, chairman of the board of the Wells Fargo
Mortgage Co. "This could become a business that would change the
economy of this whole area. Or, we could just turn out to be a couple
of fools who got a goo laugh."
	Trione, a third-generation American of Italian descent who visits
King Hassan II of Morocco annually to play polo, and his close friend
J. Ralph Stone, president of the Great Western Savings and Loan
Association, are the founders of this new corporation called "Tristo
Limited: Truffle Division."

Comment by poster: I can verify that the truffle business to date has
_not_ been a "million-dollar industry" envisioned by Henry Trione.
Apparently, many people in the United States still don't know that
truffles even exist here, even though the first truffles were found in
the 1870's!

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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