The Fraser Valley might be home to the bulk of British Columbia’s mushroom industry, but when it comes to growing the most valuable type of fungi, the region still has some catching up to do.
That’s according to Abbotsford mycologist Sharmin Garmiet, who spoke last week at the Pacific Agriculture Show.
In an interview before her talk, Garmiet told The News that while B.C. has both native and cultivated truffles, the province is still around 10 years behind Oregon when it comes to sourcing the pungent mushroom locally.
Truffles pack an incredibly strong aroma, and you wouldn’t want to eat one by itself, but for aficionados, the mushrooms can add an unparalleled taste to a whole range of dishes.
Their potency, along with the difficulty with which they can be cultivated, makes truffles incredibly valuable; Garmiet says she buys truffles for about $85 an ounce, a price that works out to around $3,000 per kilogram.
The mushrooms, though, are so strong that you only need a tiny amount to transform a dish. Truffle shavings are a popular way to use the mushroom, and Garmiet says just putting a truffle in a sealed container with rice or egg can do wonders.
Truffles have traditionally been found in B.C. in small batches by lucky connoisseurs. But knowledge of local truffles is growing.
“It’s a baby industry and we are about 10 years behind Oregon,” Garmiet said. “Here in B.C., slowly, we now have some pretty good dog handlers. They go out and find the truffles, and they are bringing them to local chefs, and they are slowly experimenting with them and developing a cuisine that is really specific to B.C.”
But the province also now boasts a group – the B.C. Truffle Association – dedicated to both sniffing out native varieties of truffles and cultivating them; with a lot of work, they can be grown in tree orchards. Garmiet, herself, is experimenting with cultivating truffles on her own land. But it’s not an easy endeavour.
An Abbotsford hazelnut farm that had produced a truffle was hit by a blight disease that has stunted that project.
“It’s not like you can build a barn or build a greenhouse,” Garmiet said.
The aim is to develop an industry to allow local chefs to develop dishes based around locally grown truffles, like in Oregon.
There, Garmiet said, “the culinary industry has developed a cuisine that really showcases native truffles.”
The B.C. Truffle Association holds its second annual Truffle Festival over three days from Feb. 4 and 6 at locations throughout the Lower Mainland. For more info, visit bctruffles.ca.