Web Exclusive: Truffle hunter sniffs out rare, expensive treat

Web Exclusive

OREGON (CNN/KVAL) - Forget just looking cute.  Some dogs dig in the dirt to make a living.  The truffle hunter found a tasty treat that's going to fetch a pretty penny.

"They all tend to start out a little fast, and then they kind of get into a rhythm and really start to focus," Kris Jacobson, Truffle Hunter.

Ilsa isn't looking for a bone.  "They gotta get the wiggles out and the smells out," says Jacobson. She's foraging for a rather dirty delicacy."Ilsa and her owner Kris Jacobson are hunting for truffles. "To the naked eye you would never see this if you didn't have a dog to point it out.  They can grow anywhere a foot to 2 feet deep," says Jacobson. 

This February, in a secret truffle orchard somewhere outside of Corvallis, this snout was hot on the scent of very rare truffle: the European Perigord.

"When the dog digs sometimes their paws nick it and then break a piece off." It reveals this distinct black and white pattern beneath, which means one thing: this truffle pays to the tune of $15 hundred dollars per pound.

"Economically, what that can mean to Oregon as a new crop is pretty significant," says Jacobson. "It's an exciting thing to participate in, you know. A world market on this food delicacy," says Dan Luoma, Oregon State University. 

Dan Luoma is an Oregon State University professor of forest mycology. "Put it in a tube just like that," says Luoma. He's doing a d-n-a test on the truffle Ilsa hunted.  "To verify at the molecular level that it is indeed the right species of truffle," says Luoma. 

New world truffieres provided the hazelnut tree this Perigord truffle grew on. Their next step is to grow more of them. Jacobson says although the Perigord rakes in the money, Oregon truffles are arguably more tasty.

"An Oregon white truffle just makes me lightheaded, when I smell a good one.  It just sends you over the edge," says Jacobson. 

Now, to your average person, all truffles look the same.  Pretty much like a big clump of dirt, very expensive dirt.


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