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Tennessee truffles......

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14 replies to this topic

#1 greenoilcook

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 10:52 AM

Tennessee truffles, sounds crazy right? Well, that is exactly what I thought when our chef told us that we had someone coming to the kitchen with some black truffles for us to check out. Last week a gentleman, from upper east Tennessee, walked into the kitchen with a bag. After telling us how he got into this “business”, which included time in Oregon, and how he happened to literally “stumble” upon his first truffle, Mr. Michaels unveiled the contents. The contents of the bag: Ziploc Snap 'n Seal containers, Blue Ribbon rice, and gorgeous earthy black nuggets. Needless to say, we were shocked and excited when he opened the containers. The unmistakable aroma of black truffles filled the kitchen, and everything stopped for a moment, and everyone looked at each other in disbelief. This was truly one of the coolest things ever witnessed in a kitchen…Truffles from Tennessee.
That was a week ago, Mr. Michaels retuned again yesterday with his wife and more black truffles. Much to our delight, it was much like last week except for his new soft sided cooler, and some larger truffles. We cannot thank this man enough for his patience and persistence to wait over 5 years to see if anything would happen.

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#2 K8memphis

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 11:04 AM

Go Tennessee! :biggrin:

Hmm, maybe I should go dig around the trees in the backyard!!

#3 artisanbaker

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 11:50 AM

there goes the neighborhood...where are you located?

#4 ludja

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 11:56 AM

I recently heard Martha Stewart mention that she was planning to visit a commercial truffle oranization in North Carolina so I guess it is "thing" in the area. I'd never heard of truffles growing down there before.

edited to add: Here is an article titled "Black Gold" about the commercial Perigord truffle venture in North Carolina: link

(The article is from March 2004).

It mentions that the Garland family, located just north of Raleigh, were the first in the US to produce Perigod truffles in the US. It's hard to understand what attracted Garland to truffles in the first place. He says in the late 1970s he read an article on the front page of the Wall Street Journal about a new method of inoculating trees in order to grow truffles (in the past, truffle cultivation was achieved by planting trees in places where the soil was known to have the fungus, making it impossible to grow truffles outside natural truffle regions). Garland, the former head of the digital electronics program at Alamance Community College, whose previous agriculture experience consisted of growing hothouse tomatoes, says that one article inspired enough interest in him to search out the man who was mentioned and buy a few hundred hazelnut trees from him. He says he didn't really even know what a truffle was. It was more than 10 years after planting the trees that Garland actually found a truffle. It had taken him some time to find out that North Carolina soil is too acidic and needs to be treated with lime in order to have the right pH. During those years, he learned more and more about the truffle, and his desire to produce them grew. In the meantime, he also developed a thriving business growing shiitake mushrooms.

Looking at that article and this link, it looks like there have been some subsidies to help promote this as an alternative crop for some farmer's like former tobacco farmers: click

edited to add: There is a previous egullet topic that links to article I posted above here The question posed in that thread was "how does the taste of the 'Tarheel truffle' compare with European truffles?" It seemed the jury was not completely in at that time.

Did the Tennesse truffles you tasted come from a commercial operation? From the NC article it sounds like there is quite a bit of work requiered to plant proper trees and to inoculate the surrounding soil correctly.

Edited by ludja, 18 January 2007 - 12:12 PM.

"Under the dusty almond trees, ... stalls were set up which sold banana liquor, rolls, blood puddings, chopped fried meat, meat pies, sausage, yucca breads, crullers, buns, corn breads, puff pastes, longanizas, tripes, coconut nougats, rum toddies, along with all sorts of trifles, gewgaws, trinkets, and knickknacks, and cockfights and lottery tickets."

-- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1962 "Big Mama's Funeral"

#5 K8memphis

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 12:00 PM

there goes the neighborhood...where are you located?

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Berclair area. Are you around here??

Nobody knows the truffles I've seen. :laugh:

#6 cdh

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 12:05 PM

First the Chattanooga Beluga, now Tennessee truffles. Maybe it's time to move down there and get close to the good stuff... Truffles and caviar from TN... who'da thunk it?

Anybody down there got duck and goose farms going yet?

Edited by cdh, 18 January 2007 - 01:01 PM.

Christopher D. Holst aka "cdh"

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#7 Gastro888

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 12:35 PM

Ooh, interesting! How much were they an ounce?

#8 BryanZ

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 09:11 PM

I'd also like to see pictures of the interior to judge quality and know the exact species.

#9 chefseanbrock

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Posted 18 January 2007 - 10:15 PM

roadie/.....you gotta hook me up

#10 greenoilcook

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 09:51 AM

roadie/.....you gotta hook me up

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You got it Sean…
To answer the other questions, the price is comparable to the European black truffles, so I hope that gives you an idea of the quality. I think most would agree that someone is not going to pay that amount of money if you did not truly believe that they were even in the same ballpark. BrianZ, I'll get some interior pictures for you.

#11 BryanZ

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 01:42 PM

So the benefit of buying these is that they're likely fresher (if you're in the SE) with only a marginal decline in overall flavor.

#12 edsel

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Posted 20 January 2008 - 02:41 PM

Ruth Reichl mentions Tennessee Truffles in the new Gourmet online: Highs and Lows Down South.

Dinner that night, at Restaurant Eugene, began with oysters baked with puréed Jerusalem artichokes and scattered with dark shreds of truffle. They were so pungent, so black, so incredibly reminiscent of France that I teased Linton Hopkins, who is famous for his reliance on local products, about this foreign affectation.

“These are local!” he insisted, going into the kitchen and returning with a little plastic tub filled with damp paper towels and two large, deep black tubers. The minute he opened the top, the room filled with their scent. “They are Tennessee truffles, and they were in the ground yesterday,” he said. They were just one more proof that the South is an ever more exciting place to eat.

Sounds like she was impressed. :wink:

#13 cookperrync

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Posted 24 January 2008 - 09:33 AM

These are, in fact, the same species as Perigord black truffles (Tuber melanosporum). I have been out to the orchards where these are being raised. It is an amazing operation and the gentleman raising them, Tom Michaels, is an absolute delight. I have some stinkin' up the fridge as we speak.

#14 Dave Parrott

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Posted 24 January 2008 - 12:55 PM

I remember reading about Tennessee truffles last year. Haven't tried them yet, but I'm gonna have to. Any idea on pricing? Are they more affordable since they are "domestic?"

#15 sygyzy

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Posted 27 January 2008 - 12:19 AM

Are they available for purchase?