For most people, the idea of truffles conjures up images of picturesque French or Italian countryside where truffle hunters are scouring the ground for those powerfully aromatic treasures. But did you know that you can also find truffles in North Carolina?
The state of North Carolina has a diverse climate and fertile soil, both of which make the ideal breeding ground for these delectable fungi. Keep reading to learn more about the wonderful world of truffles in North Carolina.
Truffles in North Carolina
The Perigord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is one of the most prized truffles but hasn’t been commonly found in North Carolina. That is until the last few years when farmers have worked hard to finally get these types of fungi to grow in the state. However, they are still not the most commonly found truffles in North Carolina.
The most common types of truffles found in North Carolina are the Summer truffle (Tuber aestivum), the Appalachian truffle (Tuber canaliculatum), and the Pecan truffle (Tuber lyonii).
Which types of truffles are found in North Carolina?
1. Summer truffles
Scientific name: Tuber aestivum
Summer truffles are known for their earthy aroma and rich flavor. This truffle is often found in hardwood forests, forming a symbiotic relationship with oak, hazelnut, and hickory trees.
2. Appalachian truffle
Scientific name: Tuber canaliculatum
The Appalachian truffle is native to the southeastern United States, the Eastern American truffle is a close relative of the European summer truffle. Its mild flavor and delicate scent make it a favorite among chefs. This truffle thrives in a variety of forest habitats, often near the roots of oak and pine trees.
3. Pecan truffle
Scientific name: Tuber lyonii
While the Pecan truffle is a white truffle that looks similar to the renowned white truffles of Italy, the ones found in North Carolina have their own unique charm. With its pale exterior and subtle aroma, the White truffle is a delicacy in its own right. It can be found in a range of environments, including mixed pine and hardwood forests.
Hunting for truffles in North Carolina
In North Carolina, truffles typically began to form in the spring, but don’t start ripening until late November through early March. This is the best time to find truffles in North Carolina and waiting until then will increase your chance of success in the truffle hunting game.
Where can I find truffles in North Carolina?
The Piedmont and mountainous regions of North Carolina provide a wide array of habitats that are suitable for truffle growth. The rolling hills of the Piedmont region feature rich soil and mixed hardwood forests, both of which provide prime conditions for the Appalachian and Summer truffle to grow. Pecan truffles are more often found in mountainous areas of the state, thanks to their cooler temperatures and varying tree species.
Truffle hunters have reported finding an abundance of truffles in Randolph, Chatham, and Montgomery counties. It is also worth noting that the Uwharrie Mountains and the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains are also known to have fertile truffle grounds.
Tips for harvesting truffles in North Carolina
For those interested in exploring the world of truffle hunting in North Carolina, here are a few tips on how to make your journey more rewarding.
- Educate yourself: Familiarize yourself with the types of truffles found in North Carolina and their preferred habitats. Understanding the trees that truffles associate with can significantly aid your search and help you narrow down your hunting grounds.
- Obtain permission: If you’re planning to hunt truffles on private land or in protected areas, ensure that you have the necessary permissions and permits before you even step foot on someone’s land.
- Invest in training: If you plan to bring along a truffle dog, invest time in their training or consider seeking the assistance of experienced truffle hunters who offer training services. A poorly trained truffle dog can lead to unnecessary damage to the truffles and their mycelia.
- Timing matters: Truffles have specific growing seasons that can vary from one state to the next. Research the best time to search for the specific truffle type you’re interested in.
- Equip yourself: A small rake or a truffle-specific tool is useful for gently digging up truffles without damaging them.
- Patience and persistence: Truffle hunting requires patience and persistence. It might take time to develop the skills to successfully locate truffles, but the rewards are well worth it.
Should I use a truffle dog?
Truffle hunting is an ancient practice that blends science, intuition, and the bond between humans and their truffle-sniffing companions. At one time, truffle hunters relied on pigs to locate these subterranean treasures, but this practice has been banned in various others for many years thanks to the pigs destructive nature. In North Carolina, truffle hunters typically work alongside their trained dogs, whose superior sense of smell can locate truffles underground.
Storing the truffles
Truffles are notorious for having a short shelf life, and improper storage can make these delicate fungi deteriorate much quicker. The best way to store these delicious treats is to gently brush off any dirt or debris and then wrap each one in its own paper towel.
Place the wrapped truffles in an airtight container that is lined with uncooked rice. Store the container in an area that is between 30 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Once every two or so days, rewrap the truffles with a clean paper towel. The truffles should be used within 2 weeks for the best flavor.
Cooking with truffles
The unique flavor of truffles can help elevate your boring dishes to a whole new level, and there are several ways you can incorporate them into your daily meals.
- Shave thinly: Truffles are typically used when they are sliced or shaved thinly. This can be done by using a sharp knife to a truffle slicer, both of which can give you a paper-thin slice that will allow the flavor of the truffle to distribute evenly throughout the dish.
- Pair with simple ingredients: Because truffles have such a distinct flavor, it’s best to pair them with ingredients that don’t have an overpowering taste. Paste, risotto, potatoes, and eggs are some of the best ingredients to use with truffles.
- Don’t cook the truffles for too long: Truffles do not do well when they are exposed to heat for a long period of time. This is because heat can cause the flavors of the truffles to dissipate.
- Infuse the truffles: Truffles are top-tier infusing ingredients that can enhance other ingredients just by storing them together in an airtight container for several days.
- Don’t forget the fats: The flavor compounds of the truffle are soluble in fat, which means you can get the most flavor out of them by incorporating the truffle into dishes with cream, butter, or oil.
- “What is black, warty, musky and fetches $800 per pound wholesale?,” Carla Burgess, Carolina Country, November 2013, carolinacountry.com
- “Black Périgord Truffles in NC,” News Crops & Organics, Dr. Jeanine Davis, Updated August 2023, newscropsorganics.ces.ncsu.edu