Summer bounty is squirreled away, but there’s a whole underworld of goodness on the horizon for winter: Oregon truffles. We asked Elan Hagens, owner of Temptress Truffles and fungi aficionado, for advice on digging into the truffle scene in Oregon.
When is truffle season in Oregon?
The season usually starts in November. It’s weather dependent. The past few years I have been getting truffles into late June.
Where can you find them?
They show up in thick, wet Doug fir forests. They will grow under old growth trees, but are not as prevalent. Trees that are 15 to 20 years old is where I will really start noticing them.
What is the difference between Oregon black truffles and Oregon white truffles?
White truffles lie close to surface of the ground in the pine needles. Sometimes white truffles have a piney taste to them. Black truffles are as much as a foot underground.
Where can people look for truffles?
The Willamette Valley is a good area for truffle hunting and the whole coastal forest is too. Anywhere with Doug firs plus moisture. I won’t go any farther east than Sandy, Ore.
We’ve heard that you use dogs for truffle hunting?
Zsa Zsa is a Yorkie, nine years old. This will be her fourth season. Kenji, who is five years old and a Giant Schnauzer, is the one who got me inspired to do truffle hunting.
How does it work?
Dogs are trained to scent them out when they are ripe. For blacks I use dogs. For whites I use a rake.
What are some things people should know about truffles?
Truffles are spread by animal activity only — voles, squirrels and even deer. They can’t be cultivated.
Advice for beginners?
Don’t give up if you don’t find them right away. It is like a treasure hunt. Once people find even one, that is enough for the first time. You need to be going to the right environment and learning the season.
What is your favorite way to prepare truffles?
To prepare truffles when they are fresh, don’t cook them. Just shave them over hot pasta or eggs. The simpler the better.
What are you selling at your farmers market stand right now?
Cultivated and wild mushrooms — chanterelles, lobster mushrooms, cauliflower mushrooms, shitakes, oyster mushrooms and huckleberries.
Find Hagens’ fresh edibles as well as her truffle butter, salt, oils and caramels at the Portland Farmers Market near Portland State University on Saturdays and Irvington and Alberta markets on Sunday as well as online.
Editor’s note: If you’re a fan of truffles, don’t miss a full weekend of truffle tastings, seminars and hands-on forays at the annual Oregon Truffle Festival.
about author Eileen Garvin
Eileen Garvin lives and writes in Hood River. When she’s not hunched over her keyboard or digging in the garden, you can find her mountain biking, kiteboarding, hiking, skiing or camping somewhere in Oregon.
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