Above: Lyon digs up the fruit of Leroy's labor. Truffles are found either just below the surface or a few inches deep.
Below: Lyon does a sniff test. Truffles are worthless without their distinctive odor.
// Photos by Leah Nash
Anyone who’s regularly attended the Oregon Truffle Festival, founded by Lefevre and his wife, Leslie Scott, and held in Eugene for the seventh year this past January, would not be surprised by those predictions. The festival, now with numerous events to accommodate attendance that has nearly tripled, attracts an international crowd of truffle growers, truffle hunters, truffle chefs, truffle eaters and hopeful owners of prospective truffle-hunting dogs.
Truffle-hunting training for dogs is a popular “track” of the three-day festival. Any dog can be trained to sniff out the location of ripe native truffles, so the hunters can dig the few inches underground to find truffles nestled in the roots of Douglas fir trees. According to Lefevre, trained dogs will make all the difference in building an Oregon truffle industry, because they only go for the ripe ones. The reputation of Oregon truffles has been less than stellar because some hunters rake or dig up unripe truffles, which have no culinary value, and sell them to chefs.
Lefevre received his doctorate in forest mycology from Oregon State University. Scott produced the Oregon Country Fair for 17 years. Both were co-authors, along with forest mycologist David Pilz and horticulturist James Julian, of the truffle industry feasibility study.
Lefevre also is founder and president of New World Truffieres, a company that plants truffieres, that is, orchards of hazelnut and oak trees whose roots are inoculated with the spores of European truffles, most commonly the French black truffle known as the Perigord. After a period of usually five to seven years, black truffles, worth from $600 to $1,100 per pound, will be ripe for the digging. (By comparison, Oregon truffles rarely fetch more than $250 per pound because the paucity of trained truffle dogs leaves the harvest sub-standard.)