Sunday, December 18, 2016

January is Truffle Fest in Oregon: Perigord Truffles, Truffle Dogs and More

The Oregon Truffle Festival is North America’s premier event for truffle appreciation and education. Held every January in the Willamette Valley, it attracts thousands of culinary travelers, chefs, growers, dog trainers, scientists and journalists from all over the globe for a series of dynamic and participatory events.

Dr. Charles Lefevre, internationally renowned Mycologist and co-founder of The Oregon Truffle Festival (Jan. 20-29), has worked with growers across North America since 2000 to plant orchards of oak and hazelnut seedlings inoculated with truffles through his company, New World Truffieres. His first customer, Pat Long of Corvallis, Ore., unearthed the first Perigord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) grown in Oregon in 2013. Last week, Long’s first harvest of this winter season produced enough truffles for a commercial sale to James Beard Award-nominated chef Matt Bennett of Sybaris Bistro in Albany, Ore., making this the first sizable crop of Perigord truffles grown in the Pacific Northwest. With twelve more weeks of harvests ahead in several Pacific Northwest orchards, Dr. Lefevre anticipates the upcoming cultivated truffle season to be the most productive yet.

Because one of the world’s most valuable culinary ingredients are also highly perishable, truffles quickly lose their prized aroma. The aim of cultivating truffles is to provide a source closer to the consumer, so that diners can enjoy truffles at their peak ripeness as they do in Europe where truffles have been historically abundant. Dr. Lefevre has had more success in achieving this goal than any other truffle cultivator in North America, as most of the cultivated truffles on the continent are being produced by his customers. Oregon’s native foraged truffles, particularly Oregon Black and Oregon Winter White truffles, are harvested and prepared by chefs in season each year at the Oregon Truffle Festival in the Willamette Valley. This year, the Oregon-grown Perigord truffles will be served alongside wild Oregon truffles for the first time.

New World Truffieres is an established pioneer in truffle cultivation in North America, as Dr. Charles Lefevre developed his own method for inoculating host tree seedlings with truffle spores while still a graduate student at Oregon State University in 2000. His trees were also the first to produce cultivated Burgundy truffles (British Columbia, 2013) and Bianchetto truffles (Idaho, 2012) in North America and the first to produce cultivated Pecan truffles in the world. Each year since 2007, Dr. Lefevre has gathered international truffle industry experts to share information, research and advances in truffle science at the annual Truffle Growers Forum at the Oregon Truffle Festival, in addition to promoting the North American truffle industry and appreciation through the festival’s myriad seminars, truffle hunts, truffle dog trainings, tastings and dinners featuring some of the West Coast’s most renowned chefs (see the upcoming lineup here).
Truffle Dog Competition

The Oregon Truffle Festival is also credited with introducing the use of truffle dogs to the harvest of Oregon truffles by recruiting dog trainers to develop the specialization, as there were no working truffle dogs in the U.S. prior to the festival’s first training seminars in 2008. In 2015 the festival held the first Joriad™ North American Truffle Dog Championship, where spectators cheer for teams of truffle dogs and trainers as they race to search for hidden truffle-scented targets. Now approaching its third year, the Joriad™ remains a one-of-a-kind event in North America.

Tickets are on sale now for the 12th annual Oregon Truffle Festival, which takes place over two weekends: from January 20-22 in Newberg and McMinnville, and from January 26-29th in Eugene.  Ticket and event information is available at Follow the Oregon Truffle Festival on Facebook, Instagram @orufflefest, and Twitter @ORTruffleFest for updates.

Photos courtesy: Oregon Truffle Festival 

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