Forests Giving Deeply Appreciated Gifts


‘You could take an iron rake and rip outwards several feet from the trunk of a fir until you gathered up every truffle in the vicinity.’ Photograph: Jason Wilson for The Guardian

Two Raxa Collective representatives made their way in late autumn (northern hemisphere) to Istria, Croatia. Those same two, and their two sons, had lived in Croatia 2006-2007 but had stayed on their island at the very southern limit of Croatia; never had the chance to make it to Istria during truffle season. So, the two who finally went made the Istria visit a culinary weekend, which will need to be the subject of another post.

The exposure to truffles in their native habitat is an experience that is difficult to describe, because it is at once a deep immersion in a very comforting deciduous forest ecosystem during a time of delicious decay; and it is simultaneously a whetting of the appetite. We are now inclined to seek out more places where we can experience this. For now, the foodies among us, and particularly the mycologically oriented, will appreciate this article in today’s Guardian Environment section, which clues us in on one possible next location for next autumn:

Truffle trackers: how dogs and humans help ecology and gastronomy in Oregon

Hunting for the underground fungus delicacy with dogs ensures ripe truffles and minimum environmental impact – and it’s a great way to bond with a canine

Jason Swindle has already learned the best and hardest lesson that his dog can teach. “It’s about trust. River does the craziest things when we’re out here – she charges up cliffs or hillsides – and I have really just had to learn to trust her.”

This trust is perhaps even sweeter than the prize she helps him find beneath the forest floor: truffles.

River’s talent for truffle hunting – and the tail-wagging joy she finds in it – are more remarkable if you know that she only learned how to do it two years ago, when she was six. Swindle says that any dog can learn at any age. In fact, he says, “if we’d tried when she was younger she may not have done as well”.

Before her lessons, River was an ordinary family pet. Now she’s the heart of a growing business, Hound Found Oregon, in which together they search out truffles for sale, survey private land for them and lead curious gourmands out on forest forays.


River at work. Photograph: Jason Wilson for The Guardian

Like many successful truffle dogs, River is a labrador. Like the best of her breed, she’s equally happy at work, at play, or curled up in front of a home fire. She’s equally at home in the woods or in the suburbs…

Read the whole article here.


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