Truffles in Georgia (and Texas, New Mexico, California, Florida, Minnesota...)

Daniel B. Wheeler dwheeler at ipns.com
Sun Feb 16 17:55:32 EST 2003


>From Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Island Packet Online, Jan. 20, 2003

Frozen pecan truffles sit on  a truck hood at Magnolia Plantation near
Leary, Ga., on Monday, June 6, 2003. Between August and November, a
worker picks them up in the plantation's pecan orchard, where they
grow amid tree roots. These ice-covered truffles were stored in a
freezer to preserve them.

A fungus, a delicacy: Georgia sniffs out its  truffles

By ELLIOTT MINOR, The Associated Press
Published Monday, January 20th, 2003 

	LEARY, Ga. (AP) - The French use hogs and dogs to sniff out the
pricey truffles  favored by fine chefs around the world.
	But managers of the stately Magnolia Plantation rely on Robert
Wilkerson, an experienced farmer, to locate and gather  the
underground delicacies that are  prized for their earthy taste.
	Discovered about 13 years ago in the pecan orchards of southwest
Georgia,  pecan truffles are milder and considerably less expensive
than the  famous black truffles from France or the even more costly
white truffles from Italy.
	But at $100 per pound, it still pays to trifle with Georgia truffles.
	 Truffles grow from a fungus on the roots of certain trees. They form
an underground web of tiny filaments that  extend the tree's root
system. In return, they benefit from the nutrients the tree generates
above ground through photosynthesis.
	If nature cooperates - just the right climate, soil and other
mysterious conditions that scientists don't fully understand - a
knobby fruit develops. It's this fruit that causes the global fungus
frenzy.
	 A Los Angeles restaurateur recently paid $35,000 for a huge,
2.2-pound Italian white  truffle. Black French truffles can sell for
$600 to $1,500 per pound, depending on the  size of the crop.
	Regular mushrooms spread their spores in the wind, but truffles
depend on animals to eat them and spread spores from their manure.
	 Oregon fungi expert Charles Lefevre, president of the North American
Truffling Society, said truffles contain androstenone, a sexual
stimulant for pigs. There's evidence the  pheromone also affects
humans and numerous Web sites offer it as a "love scent."
	 The androstenone makes pigs natural-born truffle snoopers, but dogs
have to be  trained.
	Wilkerson, 60, the manager of Magnolia's 400-acre pecan orchard,
finds truffles by looking for small bulges in the soil. Some even
protrude above the soil.
	He has found about 50 pounds in each of the last two years.
	 "Robert might not be as good as one of those hogs or dogs, but he
does a pretty good  job," said Magnolia manager Frank Stimpson.
	The 12,000-acre plantation, located about 20 miles west of Albany,
has the largest and most consistent production in Georgia. But even at
Magnolia, the truffles are limited to  only 100 acres where the soil
is unusually dark with clay and organic matter.
	 Wilkerson finds only the most obvious truffles, usually from August
to November. They  mature at a time when most growers are too busy
harvesting the state's $100 million  pecan crop to bother with
truffles.
	For years, growers didn't know what they were and threw them out with
the debris  picked up by sweeping machines that gather pecans.

	Tim Brenneman, a University of Georgia plant pathologist, discovered
them about 13 years ago and has been trying to develop markets ever
since. The species was first  identified in 1958 in Texas, which also
has pecan orchards.
	 "They will never replace the high-dollar white and black truffles of
Europe," Brenneman  said. "But among the chefs who have cooked with
them, the consensus is that they do have very desirable
characteristics."
	A few years ago, Brenneman sent some to Elizabeth on 37th, a Savannah
restaurant  that specializes in fine Southern cuisine. Now, the
restaurant's creamed rice with  country ham and vegetables features
shaved pecan truffles.
	 "They have a very earthy flavor typical of truffles," said
restaurant spokeswoman Morgan Schaff. "They're very rich and have a
slight nutty flavor."
	Schaff said Elizabeth's has been buying truffles from Magnolia
Plantation for the past  two years and plans to continue.
	In hopes of reproducing the truffles, Brenneman has planted a few
seedlings that have roots inoculated with the truffle spores. But
truffles are slow to develop, so he may have to wait a few years
before seeing any results.
	 Oregon has two native truffles - one white and one black - but
Lefevre said harvesting  before the fruit reaches its peak of flavor
has been a turnoff for some chefs and has hurt the industry.
	 Lefevre, who has a doctorate in mycology - the study of fungi - runs
New World Truffliers, a business that sells inoculated truffle trees
to growers who want to produce black French truffles.
	 "The market for truffles in this country is largely untapped ... so
I believe there is
definitely an opportunity for truffle farmers," he said. 
	Tim Brenneman, a University of Georgia plant pathologist, discovered
them about 13  years ago and has been trying to develop markets ever
since. The species was first identified in 1958 in Texas, which also
has pecan orchards.
	 "They will never replace the high-dollar white and black truffles of
Europe," Brenneman  said. "But among the chefs who have cooked with
them, the consensus is that they do have very desirable
characteristics."
	A few years ago, Brenneman sent some to Elizabeth on 37th, a Savannah
restaurant  that specializes in fine Southern cuisine. Now, the
restaurant's creamed rice with country ham and vegetables features
shaved pecan truffles.
	"They have a very earthy flavor typical of truffles," said restaurant
spokeswoman Morgan Schaff. "They're very rich and have a slight nutty
flavor."
	Schaff said Elizabeth's has been buying truffles from Magnolia
Plantation for the past two years and plans to continue.
	In hopes of reproducing the truffles, Brenneman has planted a few
seedlings that have  roots inoculated with the truffle spores. But
truffles are slow to develop, so he may have to wait a few years
before seeing any results.
	Oregon has two native truffles - one white and one black - but
Lefevre said harvesting  before the fruit reaches its peak of flavor
has been a turnoff for some chefs and has hurt  the industry.
	Lefevre, who has a doctorate in mycology - the study of fungi - runs
New World Truffliers,  a business that sells inoculated truffle trees
to growers who want to produce black  French truffles.
	 "The market for truffles in this country is largely untapped ... so
I believe there is definitely an opportunity for truffle farmers," he
said.

Posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler
www.oregonwhitetruffles.com



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