A little bit of science, a little bit of history, and of course dogs.
There is a set of steroids produced by boars which is found in their saliva before mating and which sows find very, very attractive in boy boars. Can you guess where two of the 16 steroids found in boar saliva are also found? Men’s underarm sweat! No joke. It also occurs in celery and parsnips. Oh, and truffles too! Which is why boars, especially sows are good at sniffing out truffles. It isn’t this epicurean delight that they are interested in necessarily so imagine their surprise when they find a fungi and not a handsome boy boar. However, boars are more interested in tasting them than are dogs which is why dogs are gaining in popularity when it comes to finding this fungi.
That brings me to dogs and their involvement with truffles. There is a breed called Lagotto Romagnola, from Italy that is often used for truffle hunting in Europe and is gaining in popularity in the US. With the growth in all breeds that are hypoallergenic I expect this to continue. Seems like a good job for them as they are known to love to dig. Truffles grow on the roots of hazel and oak trees naturally, and are now being cultivated in the States by inoculating the roots of some trees with spores. It takes a good nose, which they have, and like most working breeds, they have lots of energy and curiosity. In the States it seems that German Shepherds and Belgian Malinois are used more often, though in Italy the Lagotto is used exclusively for truffle tracking. The Lagotto cannot currently be registered with the AKC though they have the Foundation Stock Service available to them, where the AKC maintains stud books and other records.
Here in Texas there is a ranching family in Floresville who is expecting their first crop in 2014. Catchpenny Farm has been in the ranching business for longer than Texas has been a state, but this is their first foray into the truffle business. Not a venture to be undertaken by the impatient, these fine French truffles take as long to mature as your newborn son or daughter – a long 17 years! So in just 3 more years I will be able to take a short – ish drive to find some fine French fungi in Floresville.
Truffle Trained Dogs
At Truffle Hunting Dogs , where this sort of specialty training takes place, Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds and Labs are most often used and are generally believed to be lighter on their feet than pigs and more easily trained. I suspect they make slightly better companions as well if you, like many people, allow their dogs to curl up in bed with them!
Since I don’t have the patience, the trees, the spores or the proper breed of dog, I guess I am going to have to buy mine. I have only had the good fortune to taste truffles one time but it made a lasting impression. It was a pasta dish with both porcini and Black Truffles and was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.
You may be interested in acquiring some. The Oregon Black Truffle is the preferred variety in the States and can be ordered directly. They are much more reasonably priced than the black Perigord truffle that is grown in France. Speaking of reasonably priced, one truffle, albeit a very large one, arrived in New York from Italy in 2007 and sold for $7000. Or if you are not in a rush, you can get some trees that are inoculated and ready to go!