For Hire: Truffle Hunter

Into the weird world of mushroom delicacy

(Eric Jaffe)

(Continued from page 1)

January to June.

When you're hunting, how do you find truffles?

Out here, we look for them with rakes; that's the bad harvesting practice you hear about.

Why is that bad?

You're raking up the forest floor and all the things that live on it. It doesn't allow you to choose ripe, harvestable truffles, so you'll rake up immature and unripe ones. That damages the taste and the reputation.

Why don't hunters here use pigs and dogs like they do in Europe?

Most of the hunting is done surreptitiously at night without [a landowner's] permission. If you're driving around with a pig, everyone knows what you're doing.

I've been hunting with dogs, and they're preferable. Any dog can find truffles, but dogs that love to work are best. Labs and poodles make great truffle dogs.

How many truffle hunters are there?

There are very few truffle hunters in the United States. It is a secretive business, and perhaps only a thousand people in the Northwest know how and where to look for them. Of that thousand, perhaps 20 people do 90 percent of the harvesting. Globally, I have no idea; there are undoubtedly many thousands in France, Italy and Spain.

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