ETHICAL, SUSTAINABLE, AND COMMON SENSE GUIDE TO HARVESTING TRUFFLES
The raking method:
Raking can damage tree roots, truffle mycelium, and the local environment. Exposing tree roots to the surface can damage stability, slow their growth, expose them to disease, or even kill seedlings. Typically many truffles grow between the duff (decomposing forest litter) and the mineral soil. It’s not usually necessary to disturb the tree root system by digging more than about 2 inches into the mineral soil. Replacing the duff and disturbed soil is crucial to maintaining healthy trees and truffle patches.
When raking for truffles, it’s a good idea to leave a good portion of the ground around the tree undisturbed so that the truffles can continue to propagate naturally. Removal of the undergrowth flora from sloped areas by raking can cause devastating erosion and pollution of streams from soil and humus runoff.
The best way to find mature truffles is by use of a trained truffle dog. More and more truffle hunters are replacing their rakes with truffle dogs, which detect only the truffles mature enough to produce a strong fragrance. We encourage acquiring and training a dog for truffle hunting. Advice on how to do this can be found by Googling “Training a truffle dog” on the internet, where you will find a good variety of websites on that topic. Use of a trained dog minimizes the damage caused by raking and leaves the immature truffles in the soil to continue the maturation process.
REPLACING THE FOREST SOIL AND DUFF after raking an area is probably the single most important thing to remember when truffling.
A “ripe” truffle is one that develops the characteristic odors of its species that we humans find to our liking. In order to develop its amazing aromas, any truffle must first be well matured.
Therefore, when truffling, remember that immature truffles have little value. Harvesting immature specimens deprives one of enjoying these unique and fantastic wild edibles. Removing the immature truffles from their connection with the tree also ends the process of propagation.
Tuber oregonense (“Oregon White Truffle”):
Description Surface white in youth, soon becoming mottled with brown to orange brown or reddish brown blotches and furrows with minute pubescence; at full maturity often reddish brown overall and/or with areas where the brown interior color appears to show through the peridium, as if a bruise. Interior firm, white when immature, brown with white marbling when mature.
Odor: “truffly, a complex of garlic, spices, cheese, nuttiness and indefinable other essences.”
Season when mature: December through February, depending on weather.
Tuber gibbosum (“Oregon Spring Truffle”):
Description: Surface olive to brownish yellow with some brown mottling, smooth but with whitish, minutely pubescent furrows. Interior firm, white when immature, grayish-brown with white marbling when mature. Marbling is finer- than in Tuber oregonense.
Odor: Truffly, a complex of garlic, spices, cheese, and indefinable other essences, distinctly more “garlicky” than Tuber oregonense.
Season when mature: Late April through early July, depending on weather.
Leucangium carthusianum (“Oregon Black Truffle”):
Description: Peridium charcoal black and usually warty, but sometimes nearly smooth. Interior solid and firm, with gray pockets of spore–bearing tissue separated by white veins. Can reach several inches in diameter.
Odor: Pleasant and fruity (most often resembling pineapple) in youth, becoming increasingly pungent and earthy with age.
Season when mature: November through March.
These and other species are described in more detail and illustrated in A Field Guide to North American Trufflesby M.J. Trappe, F. Evans, and J.M. Trappe, 2007. Ten Speed Press, Berkley,
Ø Be sure you have permission from the land owners, or the proper permit in state and national forest lands.
Ø Be respectful of private property and public lands.
Ø REPLACE THE SOIL AND DUFF!
Ø Only harvest mature truffles, if the truffles are not mature move to another area or come back a few weeks later.
Be sure of your identification. The truffles listed above will be firm when you squeeze them, not soft and spongy. If enough pressure is applied they will break apart rather than compress. Knick them or cut them in half if necessary to determine type and ripeness. No truffles are known to be poisonous, but mushroom eggs can be seriously toxic and can fool someone who doesn’t have much experience. If you’re unsure of what you have, do not consume it. Check it out in the field guide noted above or ask an expert or someone knowledgeable on truffles.
Good luck with your truffling and Bon Appétit. And don’t forget to always REPLACE YOUR SOIL AND DUFF and ONLY HARVEST MATURE TRUFFLES.
For information on Special Forest Products collecting permits for state lands, please visit this
Oregon Department of Forestry website.