The Hippo

HOME| ADVERTISING| CONTACT US|

 
May 25, 2017







NEWS & FEATURES

POLITICAL

FOOD & DRINK

ARTS

MUSIC & NIGHTLIFE

POP CULTURE



BEST OF
CLASSIFIEDS
ADVERTISING
CONTACT US
PAST ISSUES
ABOUT US
MOBILE UPDATES
LIST MY CALENDAR ITEM






Trufflin
Researchers shed light on secret fungi

05/18/17
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 New species of truffles have been discovered, named and recorded in New Hampshire as researchers attempt to learn more about the fungi’s mysterious role in the forest ecosystem.

A truffle is a tuber that grows underground and spreads its spores by being eaten by forest-dwelling animals who sniff out the fruiting fungus, dig it up and spread the spores through their feces.
In French and other Mediterranean cultures, certain species of truffle are considered a high-end delicacy.
Ryan Stephens, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of New Hampshire, has been researching the diets of small mammals in New Hampshire forests and, knowing that involves truffles, began the first real crack at cataloguing the truffle species found here. 
“When we first started, we didn’t even know if we were going to find any,” Stephens said.
Because truffles grow underground close to the surface, they are hidden like needles in a haystack. He and other researchers essentially raked up sections of forest in a grid and recorded whatever truffles they could find in the Bartlett Experimental Forest.
Since 2014, they found 14 species of truffle from more than 6,000 samples; six of those were not described in science and two were never before seen by humans. 
Stephens said that while they are edible, they’re not exactly ready for the restaurant scene. 
“I have tried a couple of them and they kind of taste like mushrooms,” Stephens said. 
He described the odor of one of the newly documented species — named E. bartlettii after the Bartlett Experimental Forest — as being a cross between garlic and road tar. 
One they named E. oreoides after the Oreo cookie because it shared the same dark-light-dark color pattern when cut in half and had a sweet odor. 
The E. macrosporus gave off a citrusy odor when it started to decompose, according to Stephens.
While they may not be terribly tasty to humans, Stephens said, local small mammals like chipmunks, mice and voles love them.
“Maybe they have a more refined palate than I do, because they seem to like it a lot,” Stephens said.
Still, none of them are likely to be toxic, since truffles generally rely on mammals to eat them for the spores to spread.
The E. bartlettii and E. remickii (named after an undergrad who assisted in the research) are only known to be from New Hampshire, while the others they found are widely distributed throughout eastern North America.
Stephens said their findings are just scratching the surface. Based on studies of spores found in animal feces, he estimates there are more than 30 different species in New Hampshire.
He’s continuing his research into how important a role truffles play as a food source to small creatures that can sniff out the fungi and to the larger forest ecosystem.
Stephens’ preliminary hunch is that truffles play a much larger role than previously thought. He believes that after seeds and acorns become scarce, chipmunks and mice turn to truffles as a backup.
“So they’re almost like a reserve food source,” Stephens said.
The diversity of digested truffle found in chipmunk scat, for instance, more than doubles from early June to mid August, Stephens said.
Local environmental scientist Rick Van de Poll recommends you do not eat mushrooms, truffles or any other type of fungi you find in the outdoors without first identifying the species as edible from a reliable source. 





®2017 Hippo Press. site by wedu