What do truffles have to do with a pig?
Not much at the moment, if not nothing at all. However, truffles have had a lot with dogs since the 19th century. But let’s deal with this topic from the beginning.
Children of thunder, children of the devil, rich man’s garlic or white/black gold
Poeple have been using all these names to describe truffles for centuries. If you believe the premise, the Sumerians already knew the earthy and deep flavour of these mushrooms. In any case, even before the birth of Christ, they reigned on the tables. A man living around 300 BC may be the pioneer in studying the truffles. Greek scientist, considered the father of botany – Theophrastus. In his opinion, mushrooms appeared in the place where lightning struck the ground. This opinion only gave them power and added magical properties. In the dark ages, people tried to forget about truffles, because how can something that is born underground have nothing to do with you know who – the devil! Fashion has changed, but their taste has always been associated with wealth and elegance.
And what do we currently know about truffles?
Truffles are fungi, classified as mycorrhizal fungi, living underground at a depth of ten to twenty centimeters, in symbiosis with the roots of some trees and shrubs.
The truffle must grow under certain conditions. It needs well aerated and moderately humid soil. Underground individuals resemble a tuber, and its center is white or marbled, covered with black and white veins. They are not similar to known mushrooms, they are devoid of stem, cap, and filamentous mycelium, and they feel very hard to the touch.
The effect of truffles on the body has a very wide spectrum. Truffles have anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, antimutagenic, and antioxidant properties (this mushroom inhibits the aging of the body and the formation of inflammation). They have a beneficial effect on the functioning of the liver and skin ailments and inhibit degenerative diseases, eye diseases, and cancer. Mushroom extracts stimulate immunological processes and stimulate cell renewal. Since ancient times, people have been referring to truffles as a strong aphrodisiac.
We can distinguish more than sixty species of truffles, of which about thirty are in Europe. Not all of them are edible, and some are protected mushrooms.
The truffle hunt
Currently, truffle plantations are a common practice. Tree seedlings with fungus seeds implanted in the roots are planted in a separate area. This is a much cheaper and faster way to obtain this excellent food additive. While plantations of other varieties of truffles have been established, white truffles have never been tamed. And this is the most desired and sought-after type of truffle.
Initially, pigs were helpful in looking for truffles – sows to be more precise. The intense smell of mushrooms attracted animals, and they eagerly dug for the desired treasure from as deep as three feet underground. However, the pigs were looking for truffles for themselves, which is confirmed by a depleted harvest. That is why in the 19th century training of dogs began. Best suited for this role? Lagotto Romagnolo, an old Italian dog breed.
Training a dog starting small. Truffle oil is rubbed into the mother’s nipples to associate the smell and taste with safety for puppies. A later step is to sprinkle the puppies’ food with truffle powder. As the dog grows up, training becomes more and more advanced. The next stage is fetching, in the middle of which pieces of truffles are placed. From short-distance retrieving in time and training increasing distance. It is important that the dog obediently returns the ball filled with truffles. Then comes the time to bury the toy, and in the advancement value of the truffle itself. The dog’s mission is above “lost” underground. After mastering these skills, the dog can go out and look for real truffles.