As mushroom season kicks into full swing, people are heading to the woods in search of tasty fungi. Even the staff here at Outdoor Hub recently ventured out for a little morel hunt. However, while others search above the surface, one Oregon woman may have found riches under the dirt with the help of her trusty Belgian retriever.
Kris Jacobson and her dog Ilsa spend their time foraging for hard-sought truffles. According to KVAL, they are specifically looking for black Perigord, which can sell for anywhere between $1,500 to $2,600 per pound. Traditionally European, the Perigord truffles are cousins of the native Oregon white truffle, which can be found with a little bit of diligence and outdoors savvy. As truffles grow underground, mushroom hunters follow the marks of wildlife such as mice and squirrels. Pigs were once used to root out the pricey morsels, but in past years experts have found that dogs also perform the task admirably, and are far less likely to eat their toils.
“They all tend to start out a little fast,” Kris Jacobson said about her dogs. “Then they kind of get into a rhythm and really start to focus. They’ve got to get the wiggles out and the smells out.”
Although Perigord truffles are hard to tell aside from clumps of dark dirt, they are highly valued by cuisine lovers around the world. Truffles can be shaved over dishes or included in slices, but don’t expect such a meal to come cheap. Jacobson is beating the price markups by gathering the fungi herself.
“An Oregon white truffle just makes me lightheaded when I smell a good one,” she said. “It just sends you over the edge.”
Unlike the white truffle, black Perigord do not grow naturally in Oregon. The fungi have been introduced to the area as an experiment to see if it would adapt to the state’s soil and possibly become a commercial venture. An Oregon State University professor confirmed that Jacobson’s findings were indeed the rare truffle.
“Economically, what that can mean to Oregon as a new crop is can be pretty significant,” Jacobson said.
Although truffles may be the height of fine dining, mushroom hunters have highly varied tastes. Outdoor Hub founder David Farbman and crew travel down to Missouri, where the search for morels is an annual tradition. You can watch video of the hunt below.