When it comes to culinary delights, few can match the allure of truffles. These aromatic fungi have long been a symbol of gourmet cuisine that is often seen on the menus of fine-dining restaurants around the world. While France has historically taken the spotlight for their truffle production, you can also find these delicious delights in various states, including Tennessee. But where and when can you find truffles in Tennessee?
Truffles in Tennessee
The truffles in Tennessee are not the exact same type that you traditionally find in France, but that doesn’t mean they are not any less delicious. The three most common truffles that grow in Tennessee are:
1. Black truffles
Scientific name: Tuber melanosporum
Black truffles, also known as Perigord truffles, are arguably the most common truffle you’ll find in Tennessee. This type of truffle is known for its strong aroma and distinctive flavor, which make it a highly prized truffle for gourmet cuisine.
2. Pecan truffles
Scientific name:Tuber lyonii
The pecan truffle also goes by the moniker “Southern truffle” and is native to the southeastern part of the United States. This white truffle has a strong aroma and is often a common sight in commercial pecan orchards.
3. Burgundy truffles
Scientific name: Tuber aestivum
Another commonly cultivated truffle in Tennessee is the burgundy truffle. This truffle can vary in size, from as small as a pea to as big as a chicken egg. Even though they are not as raved about as other European varieties, the burgundy truffle still has a pleasant flavor and aroma, which makes it a wonderful choice for culinary purposes.
Where to find truffles in Tennessee
Truffles are a fungus that grows underground. They are often found right beneath or near the roots of trees, such as birch, oak, poplars, beech, and pine trees.
This is due to a symbiotic relationship certain trees share with mushrooms like truffles, referred to as ectomycorrhizae. So, the first place to start looking for truffles in Tennessee is near the base of these types of trees.
When and how to hunt for truffles in Tennessee
In Tennessee, truffle season occurs from December through February. Most truffle-hunting experts recommend waiting until 2 weeks after a heavy rain to begin looking for truffles, and then searching between the roots of trees when the soil is moist and warm.
Use a small rake to gently rake the ground, making sure you are only digging a few inches into the soil. Once you see nodules that are beige to brown with a bumpy, rough texture, use a spade to dig the truffles out of the soil.
Should I use an animal to help hunt for truffles?
For many years, truffle hunters have used animals to help locate truffles. Animals, such as pigs and dogs, can smell the odor that ripe truffles naturally give off even when the truffles are underground.
Most commercial truffle hunters use trained truffle-hunting dogs to locate truffles since dogs are easier to control and train than pigs. Pigs are also known to quickly consume the truffles they find and have even been banned in many areas because they have a tendency to cause severe damage to the truffle’s mycelia.
How to properly store truffles
Truffles are considered a delicacy, and they typically come with a high price tag. This is because truffles are seasonal, known for their difficulty in growing, and can take many years before they can be cultivated.
Additionally, truffles have a short shelf life, which means they cannot be stored for an extended period of time after they are harvested. That is why it is important to properly store the truffles you find.
1. Remove dirt and debris
After you have harvested your truffles, make sure to carefully remove all the dirt and debris from the truffles, taking care not to damage them in the process. Make sure to not wash the truffles as the added moisture can cause them to degrade quickly.
2. Wrap in paper
Wrap each truffle individually in a piece of paper to prevent the truffles from touching each other. This will also absorb any excess moisture on the truffle.
3. Store in an airtight container
Store each individually wrapped truffle in an airtight container that has a secure lid. Both plastic and glass containers work well. Some truffle hunters will also line the bottom of the container with uncooked rice to help absorb any moisture that can naturally accumulate in the container. If you do decide to add uncooked rice, make sure it doesn’t touch the truffles.
4. Store at the right temperature
Store the truffles in an area where the temperature is between 32 and 39 degrees Fahrenheit. Some people store them in the crisper drawer in their refrigerator. However, just make sure that wherever you store them they are away from other fruits and vegetables since they naturally release ethylene gas, which can have a negative impact on the flavor of the truffles.
5. Replace paper often
Check on the truffles once every two days and replace the paper towels the truffles are wrapped in. This will help to ensure the truffles stay dry. Try to use the truffles within a week or two. After this time frame, the truffles can begin to lose their aroma and flavor.
- The Pecan Truffle (Tuber lyonii): a Gourmet Truffle Native to the Southeastern US, Arthur C. Grupe II, Timothy Brenneman, Gregory Bonito, and Matthew E. Smith, Askifas Powered By Edis, Publication Date: September 26, 2019, edis.ifas.ufl.edu
- “In Season: Tennessee Truffles,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, C.W. Cameroon, February 5, 2014, ajc.com