The ‘Truffle Huntress’ aims for California growth

abc 10 News: Author: John Bartell Jan 03 2018

Growing truffle is a relatively new thing in California, but last year’s harvest happened around this time. Most truffle is imported from France or Italy, but a few years ago Staci O’Toole bought an orchard in Placerville in hopes to grow truffle in the Golden State.

“We have hazelnut trees and Oak. They are really the only trees in nature that have truffles,” said O’Toole.

The orchard is in the beginning stages of production and in the meantime she runs a business she calls “The Truffle Huntress”.

Truffle can sell for upwards of $3,000 a pound. They grow underground and the trees in O’Toole’s orchard were inoculated with truffle spores when they were planted.

It takes about seven to 10 years for the trees to mature and the truffle to grow. To harvest the mushroom, O’Toole uses a pair of Logotto Romagnolo’s, which are dogs that are specially bred to sniff out truffle.

“Some hunters used to use pigs to find truffle. The problem with pigs, they tear up the ground and the roots,” said O’Toole.

There is only a handful of truffle orchards in the United States and harvest is kind of sporadic.

“We are not really sure when truffle season is here in Placerville because it’s so new,” said O’Toole.

It could be anytime between November and February. Last December, one of O’Toole’s dogs found a quarter pound of truffle in Sonoma.

For the past few years she has been traveling to different truffle orchards and festivals to share her knowledge about truffle hunting.

Man Made truffle orchards are starting to take off in places like Oregon and the interest is growing in the Napa Valley. O’Toole’s goal is to train dogs and their owners to find future crops.

“Much like the wine industry 60 years ago‚Ķ this is still experimental we don’t know where it’s going to go,”she said.

O’Toole believes someday California will become a competitive producer of truffle.

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