Are All Truffle Species Edible?

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    Alana McGee

    This is important for everyone to see, this was brought up on a previous Student’s thread in a previous term and something we are asked about a lot. If any of you have questions about species in your local environments, I can post about that here too with photos as well.

    For those of you in Australia, I don’t have a lot of photos of other species you may find but you have HUNDREDS, edible and non edible, (likely more than Europe & North America combined it seems), but we do have direct access to Dr. Trappe and Dr. Bonito who can help us ID things you may find.

    The question: I thought all truffle species were edible? Please clarify:

    Our Answer:

    As for poisonous truffles (this gets technical and for that reason we ALWAYS suggest you consult a professional with what you find until you are confident in your own identification skills on certain species):

    Short answer: No. Not all species of truffles are edible. Small squirrels will eat many species you would find smell terrible. And not all fungi you & your dog may find will be classified as truffles. Some dogs make generalizations on odor and will find a variety of different species they are not specifically trained on. Some will not. You can teach scent discrimination, but we consider that an advanced skill as you have to actively select for and against certain species (it gets complex- we discuss in FE530), and it doesn’t come into play until you are already locating in forested habitats.

    Technically all known species of the “Tuber” genus (these are the ones you think of, like Oregon whites, Italian whites, Summer truffles, Perigords etc) are edible, but there is still much we don’t know, and so as scientists, we always urge caution. There are button stages of mushrooms, which highly resemble truffles (which can give off some of the same VOCs) which are not edible and will make you sick, and depending on where you are located, there are many which may not be ‘poisonous’, but are not good eating. There are also some species such as Choiromyces (Hungarian Sweet truffle), like in Europe (but it has also been found in Wisconsin!) where some people love it and it can cause gastric upset for others.

    The good news is high value culinary quality truffles become easy to identify once you’ve had some practice.

    For example, Oregon black truffles (Leucangium carthusianum) are not in the “Tuber” clade, but are edible, and pretty easy to ID. Elaphomyces (which I pretty much guarantee you will find in California), what we call ‘deer truffles’ won’t hurt you, but you’re not going to want to eat them- they are powdery, and tough. Melanogaster, are edible, and some like the smell (I think they smell like old wine!) and infuse butter with it, but are gooey inside!

    The great thing about truffles, is edible or not, if you like the odor, you can ‘infuse’ other food products with them. You don’t have to consume the truffle directly!

    There are Rhizopogons, and scleroderma (considered false truffles) which can give off some of the same VOCs, some of which are edible to humans and some which are not. Just because the dog finds it, does not mean it is an edible species. We try to set the dogs and ourselves up for success in this arena, but when dealing with organic compounds which vary from specimen to specimen, there will be overlap with other species.

    In order to make an ID of what you may find we would need for a picture of the outside of the truffle & the interior. In general, most of what you are going to find will be edible and choice, but, again, we always urge caution.

    When in doubt, always ask a professional!

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