Vancouver Island truffles enthusiasts don’t have to go far from home to indulge.
Shannon Berch, a retired researcher specializing in mycology, the study of fungi, wants to share how she thinks the province is littered with native truffles – they just need to be discovered.
“We don’t have a tradition here of having a mycologist, or someone who has studied the truffles for many years as they do in Europe, so we really didn’t know much about what kinds of truffles we have here,” Berch said. “However, now that we have some good trained truffle dogs, they’re out in the woods finding them. I suspect we’ll have hundreds [of species]… The dogs have just revolutionized truffles.”
While pigs are a classic animal used to sniff out truffles, in B.C. there’s been a recent uptake to training truffle dogs to trace the odour of the mushrooms, which grow underground around the roots of trees. Different species of truffles will grow around different trees, and while there are many different species there are only three or four native species that are particularly palatable to humans. However, no truffles species that scientists are aware of are toxic to humans, Berch said.
Truffles come with a hefty price tag due to the fact that they’re hard to grow and hard to find.
Cultivated Perigord truffles, for example, come in around $2 per gram, or $2,000 per kilogram.
Truffles are cultivated on three farms across B.C., where Mediterranean truffles (including Perigord) are grown by cultivating them at the roots of orchard trees, typically hazelnuts trees.
While the Italian pure breed dog Logotto Romagnolo is the most famous for hunting truffles, Berch said any breed has potential.
“The truth is any dog can find truffles, but Logottos have a romantic attachment to them,” Berch said. “They can be superb… but the first excellent truffle dog in B.C. was Dexter, and he’s a puggle.”
At the end of the day, Berch hopes more people and their dogs can get out into the woods and discover truffles.
“In terms of biodiversity we’re quite ignorant of the fungi we have in the province,” Berch said “The more people out there foraging, the more we’ll find.”
For more information, you can visit the Wild and Cultivated Truffles of B.C. event’s Facebook page.
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