Friday, October 2, 2009

Drought and interesting find - Truffles in East Texas?

At first this baffled me. I was out in my lawn in The Woodlands Texas and noticed a spot where the grass was not growing. Not enough water? I asked. The location is rather high relative to the rest of the yard, so the question was pertinent considering the severe drought we had this year. So in one of the driest places in my yard, I discovered this mass growing under the ground, with just a piece peeking above the ground, like a tree root , preventing the grass from taking hold there. As you may already know, I subscribe to the practice of mulching my grass as I mow it, so there is plenty of dead material in the yard for mushrooms or  fungi to munch on. Since I have been paying attention to mushrooms this year, I readily noticed this is indeed of the Fungi group of living organisms. One sniff and I said - this is a mushroom growing underground! I wished someone would have photographed my face on that discovery!

So do mushrooms grow underground? Well, fungi do and this one appears to be a truffle. At least it is a tuber (like in potato). This is of the mushroom family and produces spores. When I posted this photo in Facebook for some of my friends to review,  one response was that I needed to go out and rent a pig. That was clever. Boars are known to have a chemical in their saliva which attracts a female in mating season. That chemical is prevalent in these tubers and there are related stories to the truffle. There is the "Festival of the Truffle and Wild Boar" in Italy where the relationship is honored as people go search for truffles.1

So is this  one of the very costly edible truffles that we import from Europe?  In that we had such a dry year, I have been told it possibly is! That makes this little thing worth at least $200 in the market. Still my family said jokingly (I think) -  "you are dead meat if you try to eat this thing. If it doesn't kill you, we will for trying." So it sits on the kitchen table, waiting for me to throw it out or try it.  It sure smells good! The large piece is one tuber. There were two babies attached to it, thus the other pieces.

As it turns out, this type of fungus probably evolved in drier climates where mushrooms were not so successful in the evolution of organisms. By keeping its spores underground and multiplying in that fashion, it is more successful in propagating than its brother, the mushroom.  So when you are digging in the earth or notice something at the surface of the ground like this, you now know what it might be. There are many varieties of tubers and some are native to Texas.

This is a companion article with more detail that I found interesting when I researched this topic - "Truffle Primer" by  Britt A. Bunyard. 

1American Chronicle,White Truffles in the Monferrato of northwest Italy


TxOwl said...

i have found this same fungi as in your photo. so are these truffles or no? there is very little my google search has been able to 'unearth'.

Stephan Dueboay said...

It's most likely the "Texas Pecan Truffle". And that's more of a location more than the type of tree it grows under. Legend has it, the first ones were dug under pecan trees. It's definitely not like the black truffles that only grow in Europe.

But beleive it or not, there is a market for these at high end restaurants.

The flesh should be a chalky, white-ish color and should have a deep earthy odor.

Worth checking in to!

The Impulsive Texan
Cleburne, Texas

txgthumb said...

That picture seems to be puffball fungi, Pecan truffles have the trademark marbled interior flesh as opposed to the dark purple to black interior (characteristic of puffballs), as seen in the photo

Joshua Cooley said...

That is not a Pecan truffle. It is a puffball.

Joshua Cooley said...

That is not a puffball, but close. It is an, "Earthball, a fungus of the genus SCLERODERMA. Species are separated in Scleroderma mainly on the basis of spore shape, which I can't see, but my specimens' form, habitat and external appearance suggest that they may be Scleroderma areolatum, or close to it. Scleroderma areolatum appears to be the most commonly collected earthball species found in Oregon."