A potentially valuable gourmet delicacy has been unearthed in the Kingston Peninsula area of southern New Brunswick.
The New Brunswick Museum says it has received a donation of truffles for its collection of fungi.
"It's a very exciting find," said botany and mycology curator Alfredo Justo.
The truffles were discovered by Peggy Cooper, said the museum.
She posted about it to the group Mushroom Hunting New Brunswick, saying she found them in her garden on Sept. 24.
They were marbled brown on the inside, wrote Cooper, and tasted nutty when she nibbled on one.
Not all truffles are edible, but Justo said these ones are in the same group as famous European truffles, prized by chefs and foodies for their rich flavour.
An 80-gram truffle can sell for over $100. A two-kilogram white truffle reportedly sold for more than $60,000 at auction in New York in 2014.
Cooper's truffles will be studied, said Justo, adding that he hoped a more precise identification could be made.
The mycologist's interest is obviously more scientific than gastronomic.
"As with many groups of fungi they're really understudied," he said.
Have to really search for them
The museum has a couple of old collections that might be truffles, said Justo, but this is the first fresh collection that has been confirmed.
"It's a big deal," he said.
"It's one more reminder that there's still so much to know and to explore about mycological diversity in New Brunswick."
For a long time, said Justo, it was assumed there weren't any truffles in Canada or eastern North America.
"They might be really widespread," said Justo, "but you have to be really looking for them."
Truffles grow underground. They are the fruiting structure of a fungus associated with tree roots.
Doesn't expect a repeat
To find them, you either have to be specifically searching — usually with the help of a dog — and methodically digging, or, you might get lucky, after a big rainstorm, for example.
In this case, said Justo, it was "kind of accidental."
Many truffle finds happen, he said, after topsoil has moved and tree roots are exposed.
Cooper wrote online that it was her first truffle find, and she was certain it was an isolated one.
"I will be keeping an eye out," she said, adding she was not hopeful of finding any more.