'Oregon has indigenous, really highly desirable culinary truffles'

EUGENE, Ore. -- Truffle aficionados flocked to the Eugene Hilton on Friday to celebrate the subterranean fungi (not to be confused with the chocolate delicacy) that, for many, is worth its weight in gold.

Researchers, scientists, hunters, and chefs came together to kick off the 8th annual Oregon Truffle Festival, scheduled to take over the hotel's convention center on Jan. 25-27.

The festival features seminars on the types of truffles found around the state, how to hunt for them, and how to use them in cuisine.

Chefs like Charles Ruff said that the valuable truffles sought after in the Pacific northwest are unique.

Ruff, who is the culinary director of the truffle festival, added that they are delicate and aromatic, which is what sets this region apart in the truffle industry.

"The state of Oregon is one of the few places in North America that has indigenous, really highly desirable culinary truffles and Lane County happens to be right in the heart of the state," Ruff said. "Once you've experienced your first true truffle, it's a mind blowing experience. It will change your life."

Hunters at the festival all told KVAL News that the black and white varieties of truffles are found in Oregon.

When trained correctly, experts at the festival said that certain breeds of dogs can be excellent at seeking out areas where ripe truffles are growing underground.

"It's a way to pick up mature and ripe truffles for use without picking up a lot of immature truffles which (after they are picked) will never ripen," Ruff said.

Ruff said that these pungent fungi can be used in all kinds of dishes, whether they're infused in a cream sauce or shaved over an omelet.

"Taste-wise I think the growing popularity ... the aromatic qualities behind it and the euphoric feeling it gives to people once they've experienced their first truffle," said Ruff.

Entry to the festival sold out on Friday and Saturday, however festival organizers will hold an open marketplace for the public. On Sunday people can purchase truffles at the Hilton from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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