How to Find Truffles in Tennessee

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Truffles are usually found growing on a tree's roots or branches.
Truffles are usually found growing on a tree's roots or branches. (Image: TRUFFLE ON A TREE image by threesalmon from Fotolia.com)

Truffles, or Tuber melanosporum, are fungi that are usually associated with countries in Europe and fine dining. Animals such as pigs and dogs are trained to detect the mushrooms underground. However, truffles can grow and flourish with the right root system and rich volcanic soil. Tennessee is one of the few venues in North America where truffles can be found and harvested with the right tools and knowledge. Perigord, or black truffles, are the most common in Tennessee in no small part due to the number of hazelnut orchards in the state.

Things You'll Need

  • Small garden rake
  • Small spade
  • Gardening gloves (optional)
  • Plastic bucket
  • Mushroom field identification guide
  • Small knife (optional)
  • Trained pig or dog (optional)
  • Map of Tennessee that includes plant hardiness zones

The Truffle Hunt

Examine your map to find regions that are more likely to have rich soil and certain kinds of trees. Eastern Tennessee and the areas surrounding the city of Chuckey are currently the most promising regions in the state for truffle hunting.

Wait for about two weeks after a heavy rain to look for truffles. Search between the roots of specific trees among warm, moist soil.

Gently rake promising ground, digging only a few inches, before using the spade. Look for small, light brown or beige nodules with uneven borders and a rouge texture.

Use your field identification guide to identify the truffles. Remove some of the dirt surrounding the truffles using the small spade and the knife. Be careful not to damage the truffles during harvesting or storage. Remember that large, intact truffles can be appraised at a high value.

Tips & Warnings

  • Truffles are connected to certain trees (oak, hazelnut, pine) due to a relationship known as "ectomycorrhizae," a word used to describe the symbiotic relationship that mushrooms have with certain kinds of trees.
  • This guide assumes that you will not be using an animal for your truffle hunt, but in the event that you decide to use a trained pig, be aware that pigs will eat any truffles that they find. If you have a trained dog, keep treats on hand to reward the dog as soon as if finds or fetches a truffle.

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