Are you a fan of fungi? Have you ever gone hunting for wild edible mushrooms or truffles? Do you love incorporating them in your favorite dishes or maybe you just like savoring them when someone else is doing the cooking? No matter what aspect of mushrooms and truffles you like best, there are celebrations around the world to fulfill your desires.
These peculiar fungi known as mushrooms are mysterious creations in nature. There are tens of thousands of varieties of mushrooms of all shapes, sizes, and colors with just a small percentage being edible. Edible mushrooms are not merely non-poisonous, but they also need to taste good and have an appetizing texture, but many don’t.
There’s also an ongoing discussion about whether truffles are mushrooms, but for the purposes of this article, we’ll address them separately. As you may know, in some parts of the world the earthy seasonal truffle is sometimes the subject of mythical legends, secret underground markets, and exorbitant prices because it’s so hard to find in the wild and tricky to grow on farms.
European white truffles can sell for as much as $3,600 a pound, making them one of the most expensive foods in the world. One two-pound truffle recently sold for more than $300,000. Because these truffles are rare and notoriously hard to find, even with the help of trained foraging animals, it not only adds to the allure, but the scarcity increases their value.
But if you love the thrill of the hunt for edible mushrooms and truffles or just look forward to tasting the complex flavors, I’ve found some fun and enriching gatherings for your next culinary adventure. Foodie travel experiences like these can help you learn how to find, grow, cook and sample these oddly shaped little fungi.
North American Mycology
The North American Mycological Association (NAMA) is an organization devoted to promoting, pursuing and advancing the science of Mycology (the study of fungi) in North America. If you’re interested in finding out more about edible mushrooms, truffles, and the like check out their website.
This site provides information about how to distinguish good edible mushrooms and truffles from poisonous or unappetizing ones. If you’re an educator, you can rent an age-appropriate Mushroom Teaching Kit for your classroom. Dive deeper into the world of fungi, by joining a club or foraging event near you.
If you’re planning to visit the Pacific Northwest region of the U.S. (Washington, Oregon or Northern California), you’ll find that three different culinary varieties of truffles grow near Douglas Fir trees in coastal forests. You’ll also discover many events where you can learn about edible mushrooms and truffles, how to cook, taste, and even forage for them.
“Truffles have managed to come out of the ground and into the American culinary mainstream without losing their mystique or their earthy appeal-further proof that they are a unique, irreplaceable culinary treasure.”
The peak of the season, January 15–18, 2021 brings the 11th annual Napa Truffle Festival in California (USA, of course). It’s no surprise that interest in truffles is growing. Today’s truffles are so in demand that cautious restauranteurs are known to store their precious and pricey treasures in safes.
At the Napa Truffle Festival, you can learn about cooking with truffles, truffle and wine pairings, and the science of cultivating. Edible truffles will be available to buy at the festival too. A member of the group will also lead an early morning wild mushroom forage. With a little luck, perhaps you’ll find a buried treasure of the edible kind.
The festival closes with a marketplace showcasing local wines, artisanal foods, cooking demos, special truffle dishes, accouterments, and a chance to win a coveted black diamond truffle!
A wide variety of workshops and experiences are available in this multi-day event. Check out all the details in the program here. Prices range from $25 — $1,300 depending on the activities you select.
Another organization in California is the Sonoma County Mycological Association (SOMA). This non-profit group is dedicated to learning about local mushrooms and educating the public about the vast and diverse world of fungi.
They offer various events throughout the year like Fungi Fairs and Wild Mushroom Forays where all ages of participants have a chance to get out in the woods and learn how to identify edible mushrooms. These edible mushroom forays include a potluck too, so you can get to know others in the group, ask questions and enjoy food (fungi) and fellowship.
SOMA Camp is held in January each year at a modern conference center about an hour north of San Francisco. The buildings are set among 225 acres of mushroom habitat, including mixed oak, redwood, and Douglas-fir forests. Wild edible mushroom cuisine is served as part of the 3-day weekend event. Expert-led mushroom forays, gourmet cuisine, classes and workshops on mushroom identification, cooking, dyeing, paper-making, medicine making, photography, cultivation, and more are offered.
Truffle Season runs November through May in Washington state and December through March in Oregon.
The Oregon Truffle Festival was held in the peak of the season in January and February this year. There were events in Eugene near the end of January and more events in Yamhill Valley around mid-February.
I contacted the organizers and they let me know that there are some changes in the works for the 2020 festival, so check back at the link above for updates. Be aware that this is quite a popular festival. Tickets aren’t on sale yet for next year, but keep checking because some of the events sell out in advance.
Guided Truffle Hunting & Dog Training
It turns out that foodie experiences aren’t just for humans anymore. Dogs can get into the mix too. Would you like to teach your dog how to hunt for truffles? There’s a class for that. Then if they get really good at it, you can enter them in a Truffle Dog Championship where they can prove their skill and take home a prize.
Truffle Dog Training Seminar at the Oregon Truffle Festival was the first event of its kind in North America. It has taken a long time to introduce truffle dogs to this region, but this training has now completed its third year.
The OTF Truffle Dog Training Seminar is a unique opportunity to both observe the handling and training of skilled truffle dogs and to teach your own dog to detect the scent of truffles.
This event starts in the classroom on Day 1, with lectures on canine scent detection and the fundamentals of scent training. On Day 2 participants and their dogs have a chance to participate in a hunt for wild truffles in their natural habitat. You and your dog will have a chance to find truffles in the wild. And yes, you’ll get to keep the truffles you find.
“Who ever says truffle, pronounces a great word, which awakens erotic and gourmand ideas both in the sex dressed in petticoats and in the bearded portion of humanity.” J. A. Brillat-Savarin, 1825
One aspect of the Oregon Truffle Festival is the annual Joriad North American Truffle Dog Championship held in Eugene, Oregon where dogs of all breeds and sizes are challenged to find the elusive hidden fungi. First in an arena to narrow down the field of contestants. Then the finalists search in the forest in real-world situations for a $500 prize.
Truffle Dog Company offers guided truffle adventures on a more intimate scale. Their guide will take you to a known truffle patch in Washington and let you experience the world of truffle hunting with dogs. Imagine the fun of seeing a dog and handler work in tandem to locate the underground delicacies.
Truffle Hunting Classes for Dogs are also offered by the Truffle Dog Company in California and Washington. Trainers agree that almost any dog and breed can be trained to find truffles. It’s more about the dog’s individual personality and how you work together as a team. So if you live in that part of the country and love truffles, this could be a fun and profitable activity.
Truffle country lies in the Western Australia Shire of Manjimup, 3.5 hours from Perth and 90 minutes from Margaret River. This is where the 10th Annual Truffle Kerfuffle will take place in June.
Manjimup is the largest producer of truffles in the Southern Hemisphere with over 20 producing trufferies in the Shire, providing 80% of the annual production.
Truffle Kerfuffle is a weekend-long food and wine festival celebrating the delicious truffle. Guests can join truffle hunters to unearth the culinary prize, visit the Festival Village for a taste of the region or get their truffle fix at exclusive dining events. Subscribe to their mailing list or follow them on social media to be the first to get more details as they develop.
Italy is the 2nd largest producer of edible mushrooms and truffles in the world. The UK travel website, Essentialitaly has an informative post about an array of festivals and events focused on mushroom and truffle season in Italy here.
Truffle Events in Provence, France
Truffle season in Provence, France runs from November through March. You can find several festivals, events, private Truffle Hunt and Stay weekends and even a Truffle Mass ceremony by following these links.
For a truly unique experience visit the Truffle Market on Avenue de la Rabasse in Richerenches any Saturday from November to March. This town in southeast France (about a 2-hour drive south from Lyon) has the biggest market for trading black truffles in the country and has been the largest producer of truffles in France since the 1940s. Ten to twelve tons of truffles are traded here every year.
Between 9:00 AM and 1:00 PM you’ll find markets on two different streets: the main street, lined with stands selling truffles and truffle products to everyday consumers, and a second street reserved strictly for professional buyers, brokers, chefs and the like often buying truffles from the trunk of a car.
Also, in Richerenches, on the 3rd Sunday of January, each year locals and tourists gather for “La Messe de la Truffe” or “The Truffle Mass” in honor of St. Anthony (patron of truffle producers and truffles). The highlight of the truffle mass is when the offering basket is passed around. Instead of cash, nuggets of black diamond truffles are donated by local farmers and auctioned off to help support the church.
Richerenches truffle market: Saturday mornings, in Avenue de la Rabasse.
Carpentras truffle market: Friday mornings, in front of the tourist office. (The oldest truffle market in France, dating back to 1155.)
Riez truffle market: Wednesday mornings
Valreas truffle market: Wednesday mornings
Aups truffle market: Thursdays
Provence, France Truffle Festivals
So many celebrations and so little time. These festivals in Provence, France include events like truffle markets, truffle hunting demonstrations, truffle dog competitions, exhibitions and truffle-based menus at all the village restaurants.
Aups: 4th Sunday of January
Menerbes: late December.
Le Rouret: mid-January.
Rognes: the Sunday before Christmas.
Pernes les Fontaines: late January
Pelissanne: late January
Carpentras: early February
Edible Mushroom Experiences
If all goes as planned, the 41st Annual Morgan Hill (California) Mushroom Mardi Gras will take place on Saturday and Sunday of Memorial Weekend. This festival includes mushroom cooking demonstrations, an educational mushroom expo with samples and giveaways, a 5K and 10K fun run, and artist handcrafts.
Live music will be on stage and strolling throughout the festival grounds. Whet your whistle with your choice of the beer and wine garden, premium wine tasting, or a sangria booth. Now that sounds like fun! You won’t want to miss the many food vendors showcasing edible mushroom dishes including stuffed, sautéed, sandwiched, deep-fried and grilled.
A Blended Burger Cook-Off Contest is also featured at the Mardi Gras. Burgers must be made with 75% ground beef and 25% mushrooms (using white, crimini or portabella mushrooms). 1st Place — $1000 + Golden Ticket to be eligible to participate in the 2020 World Food Competition in Dallas, TX, 2nd Place — $250, 3rd and 4th Place — $100, Plus all finalists also receive a mini food processor and beef prizes.
The mission of the Mushroom Mardi Gras Festival (non-profit), is to provide a fun and entertaining family festival with an emphasis on promoting the health benefits of mushrooms, all while helping local students, schools and other non-profits with scholarships and grants.
Mexican Mushroom Tours — August
August 22–30, 2020 Haciendas, Hongos and Hidalgo Tour: Experienced mycologists, Dr. Adriana Montoya and Alejandro Konginvite invite you to join them for a well-planned, all-inclusive, small-group adventure in a fungi-rich area of Mexico that also offers much more to see and do for attendees. Transportation, accommodations, meals, tips, waterfalls, archeological sites, edible mushroom learning opportunities and a few glasses of wine are all included in the price.
Pennsylvania Mushroom Festival — September
No plans to head to the western U.S. or overseas? The first weekend after Labor Day ushers in the 35th Annual Mushroom Festival to Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. This Mushroom Capital of the World is about 30 minutes from Wilmington, Delaware and an hour from Philadelphia. Over 65 percent of the mushrooms consumed in the United States are grown right in this Southern Chester County region.
Each year over 500 volunteers come together to create a Festival that stretches more than a mile through town and features culinary events, growing exhibits, contests, children’s entertainment, and nearly 250 vendors. You can also buy mushrooms from local growers at the festival.
Mushroom Festival Competitions
A plethora of competitions take place at the Pennsylvania Mushroom Festival each year as well. You’ll find an Amateur Mushroom Cook-Off with a top prize of $1500 and a golden ticket to the World Food Championships, Mushroom Growers Best Mushroom Judging, even a Painted Mushroom Silent Auction. The Mushroom Soup & Wine Tasting is a crowd favorite. Local restaurants compete for the title of “Best Mushroom Soup in the Delaware Valley” and Pennsylvania wineries hope to get the “Best Wine at the Mushroom Festival” plaque. Festival attendees sample the soups and wines, then vote on their favorite to determine the winner.
Are you a competitive eater? The Mushroom Festival also features a National Fried Mushroom Eating Championship. Prizes are awarded for Overall Champion (Pors and Amateurs) 1st Place: $1000, 2nd Place: $500, 3rd Place: $300. Local Champions, coming from a 15-mile radius of the event are eligible for 1st Place: $200 and 2nd Place: $100.
Proceeds are used for a good cause too. Over the years a million dollars in grants have helped non-profit organizations in the region. Gourmet Magazine and USA Today have both rated the Mushroom Festival as one of the best food festivals in America.
Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival — October
If you’re disappointed to have missed the Oregon Truffle Festival in January, you can still save the date for the Mount Pisgah Arboretum Mushroom Festival on the last Sunday in October each year. The 2020 date is October 25th. The Cascade Mycological Society partners with the arboretum near Eugene to host this event, which serves as a fund-raiser to support the arboretum’s outdoor recreation and native habitat stewardship programs.
Festival activities include a mushroom display containing over 500 identified local mushroom species, hayrides, a cider booth, live music, expert talks about cooking and preserving mushrooms, and guided nature walks. Vendor booths include local food and beverage, plant and fungi farmers, plus arts and crafts.
You can also sign up to volunteer at the festival and get free admission and a free poster.
By the way, did you know that in the state of Oregon, wild edible mushroom and truffle picking may require a permit? You can find out more here.
Planning a visit to South Carolina? Why not stop at Mushroom Mountain in Easley about 30 minutes west of Greenville? You’ll find a Mushroom Trail where you can see fungi growing in the wild and learn about different varieties and how they’re used. They also offer Farm Tours for those who want to see how mushroom farming works.
Before you go, check their list of workshops and classes to see what else you can learn while you’re there. For example, you can find a Survival Skills Camping Weekend where you’ll learn how to find and identify edible mushrooms, how to store and cook them and much more.
Even though many of us aren’t free to travel right now, many of these events take place toward the end of the year, so still may be able to be added to your travel list for 2020. Do you like mushrooms or truffles? Have you ever picked them in the wild? Have you been to a culinary fungi celebration? I’d love to hear about it.
You may also be interested in these other posts about Culinary Travel.
Originally published at https://travelingwithpurpose.com on March 12, 2020.