There are successful, producing orchards across the US and Canada, including Virginia, North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, British Columbia, Ontario and Quebec.
Spain, New Zealand, Australia, Chile, South Africa have thriving truffle industries that are expanding rapidly. The list of countries producing truffles is rapidly expanding.
There is really no difference in cultivated truffles in the US or Europe. Different species of trees may be preferred due to regional climates, but the trees are all inoculated with the same species of truffle, so the harvested truffles will be identical.
Theoretically a Black Truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is genetically the same in Europe, Australia or the US and should have the same basic flavor and aroma profile. The role of terroir can impact the value of the truffles as locally grown truffles can command a higher price. Also, because some of the aroma profile of truffles is contributed by bacteria that inhabit the truffle, it has been found that aroma profiles can vary from location to location.
Cultivated truffles can be grown outside their natural range because we have better control of soil chemistry, orchard management and irrigation. Various species of trees are used depending on the type of truffle to be grown and the climate. Cultivated truffles can take from 5-10 years before the first harvest. When an orchard is planted with good quality inoculated trees and the orchard is well managed (irrigation, pruning, weed control, soil chemistry) an orchard can be successful and sustainable and may last for generations (we observe orchard senescence after 25 years of production).
Several species of culinary truffles are native to the USA, Mexico and Canada. There are Oregon white truffles, Oregon black truffles and Oregon brown truffles found in the Pacific northwest US and Pacific southwest of Canada. The Appalachian truffles are found in northeast US and southeast Canada, and the Pecan truffles in south-eastern Canada, center-south parts of the US, and northern Mexico.
Pigs are successful hunters, but they tend to eat the truffle. It’s quite difficult to fight 300lb pig for the truffle. There are old tales of truffle hunters in Italy that were missing a finger or two after years of truffle hunting with pigs. And it’s difficult to transport a large pig to the forest and it’s even more difficult to keep what you are doing a secret, so dogs became the preferred method for truffle hunting. Initially, in Italy it was a breed called the Lagotto Romagnolo, an Italian Water Dog or Italian Truffle Dog, that became well known for truffle hunting. Today many breeds of dogs with a decent nose, good attitude, strong work ethic, and good training can make excellent truffle hunters.
Retail prices for fresh Black Winter Truffles (Tuber melanosporum) can range from $80-120 per oz or $1200-2000 per pound depending on quality, freshness, and origin.
A truffle importer should be labeling the type of truffle and where the truffle was grown/harvested. Black Winter Truffles (Tuber melanosporum) are often imported from France, Spain and Italy in the winter time and Australia, Chile, South Africa in the summer time. US Truffle Growers will be labeling fresh truffles with the exact truffle species (both Latin and common names), the region where the truffle was grown, the date it was harvested and the class or quality of the truffle.
You can read about many truffle species at the NATGA website. Using only their common names such as winter or summer or black and white can be very confusing and potentially misleading. That is why the North American Truffle Growers Association (NATGA) is supporting product labeling that uses both scientific or Latin names as well as common names for different truffle species. NATGA believes that well defined and clear labeling will help to educate US chefs and consumers.
Truffles aroma is especially soluble in fat, so adding truffles to butter, eggs, cream, and cheese are excellent ways to really highlight the truffle aroma. In fact, you can place fresh truffles in a sealed container next to fresh eggs in shell, butter, bacon, even avocados and the truffle aroma is so powerful that it will be infused directly into the raw ingredients. After infusing ingredients with truffles, the truffle is best used shaved or grated on top of the finished dish, to highlight the aromas.
The types of truffles used for different dishes can vary based on individual tastes and preferences and chefs may have strong opinions on what works best for different truffles. There is strong agreement that pasta, eggs and cheese provide an excellent palette for the magic of truffles.
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