Rare truffles unearthed in Kingston Peninsula area
Part of trove donated to New Brunswick Museum for further study
A potentially valuable gourmet delicacy has been unearthed in the Kingston Peninsula area of New Brunswick.
The New Brunswick Museum says it has received a donation of truffles for its collection of fungi.
"It's a very exciting find," said botany and mycology curator Alfredo Justo.
The truffles were discovered by Peggy Cooper, said the museum.
Cooper said she was gardening when she found them on Sept. 24.
"They were so unlike anything I've seen," she said.
She did a bit of research and checked with a forager friend and found "they looked like real truffles."
She posted about them in a couple of Facebook groups, including Mushroom Hunting New Brunswick, where Justo came across them
They were marbled brown on the inside, said Cooper, and tasted nutty and spicy when she nibbled one.
Cooper dropped off a sample to the museum, which Justo confirmed was truffle.
Not all edible
Not all truffles are edible, but Justo said these ones are in the same group as famous European truffles, prized by chefs and foodies for their rich flavour.
An 80-gram truffle can sell for over $100. A 2-kg white truffle reportedly sold for over $60,000 at auction in New York in 2014.
"We don't know the quality and I have zero experience in preparing them," said Cooper, adding she mentioned her find to a couple of restaurants, but hadn't heard back from anyone.
"It would have been nice to have a local chef try them out to test the taste."
She plans to try her hand at a couple of truffle dishes and share what she has left.
Justo's interest is more scientific than gastronomic.
Cooper's truffles will be studied, he said, adding that he hoped a more precise identification could be made.
A sample has been sent to Florida for DNA testing.
"As with many groups of fungi they're really understudied," said Justo.
Have to really search for them
The museum has a couple of old collections that might be truffles, he said, but this is the first fresh collection that has been confirmed.
"It's a big deal," said Justo.
"It's one more reminder that there's' still so much to know and to explore about mycological diversity in New Brunswick."
For a long time, said Justo, it was assumed there weren't any truffles in Canada or eastern North America.
"They might be really widespread," said Justo, "but you have to be really looking for them."
Doesn't expect a repeat
Truffles grow underground. They are the fruiting structure of a fungus associated with tree roots.
So to find them, you either have to be specifically searching, usually with the help of a dog, and methodically digging, or, you might get lucky, after a big rainstorm, for example.
In this case, said Justo, it was "kind of accidental."
Many truffle finds happen he said if topsoil gets moved and tree roots are exposed.
Cooper said she will look for more next year, but isn't hopeful she'll find any.
Cooper said she has heard of other truffle finds in the province, though.
A man from Norton used to sell them, she said.
"These are just the first to be added to the collection and fully examined."