The Fifth Annual Oregon Truffle Festival concluded its run on Sunday, showcasing what gastronomy experts call the ultimate mushroom.

Truffles are found naturally throughout North American woodlands and are poised to become the next big culinary trend.

“With seven truffle orchards in production around the country, and dozens more about to reach producing age, an American truffle industry is about to be born, following in the footsteps of the American wine industry,” says festival organizer and mycologist Charles Lefevre, PhD.

Some of the state’s premier chefs prepared luscious dishes for the festival’s Grand Truffle Dinner, including Naomi Pomeroy of Beast (Crème Fraiche Tarts with Triple Cream, Shaved White Truffles & Mâche Salad with Black Truffle Vinaigrette) and Pascal Sauton of Carafe (Pacific Ling Cod Effeuilée with Foie Gras & Black Truffle Broth).

One of the festival’s highlights was the Truffle Dog Training Seminar, where curious canines learned to hunt for truffles (which grow underground) by detecting their unique aroma. Pigs have traditionally performed this job in Europe.

“The truffle dog’s role is not just to find truffles, but like a shopper squeezing avocados or sniffing strawberries, truffle dogs choose which truffles are ripe and ready to harvest,” says Dr. Lefevre, founder of New World Truffieres, Eugene, OR-based specialists in truffle cultivation.

The truffle business is projected to exceed $6 billion within the next 20 years, “rivaling many other agricultural commodities traded worldwide,” according to a feasibility study Dr. Lefevre conducted. As the study notes, truffles can be managed sustainably with organic farming methods and:

“With adequate support, cultivated and native truffles produced in Oregon could annually exceed $200 million in direct sales income; counting secondary economic benefits, the value of the industry could exceed $1.5 billion. These figures rival the current value of the state’s lucrative wine industry and could be greater if Oregon pursues truffle production with similar passion and focus.”

Truffles usually cost $300 to $500 per pound, according to the National Restaurant Association, but rarer varieties can fetch up to $4,000 per pound. For an affordable option, buy a high-quality organic truffle oil at your local natural food store (or online).

OrganicAuthority Publisher Laura Klein shares some of her favorite truffle-oil recipes here:

  1. Wild Mushroom and Black Truffle Organic Risotto
  2. Grilled Heirloom Truffle Potatoes
  3. Homemade Organic Ricotta Cheese Served with Black Truffle Oil.

Photo by John Valls