What is it about truffles? Alluring and expensive this subterranean fungi with the world’s most arresting aroma have become a lockdown luxury like no other. Is it the need for absolute indulgence? Is it the aroma of the forest feeding our need for the great outdoors.? Whatever it is, our appetite for this illustrious fungus is insatiable.
Once only found in France’s Périgord, truffles are now successfully cultivated and harvested in Australia. At first, we considered them a mere culinary status symbol – only craved by those for their exclusive and expensive price tag. All the while, many Aussie chefs knew their endless possibilities.
Today, Australia is the fourth largest truffle producer in the world behind France, Italy and Spain. And, West Australia’s Manjimup region produces 80-90% of Australia’s Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum).
Like producing the other revered culinary ingredients – saffron and caviar, starting a truffle orchard or Truffière is a serious, long-term investment. It can take up to ten years after oak or hazelnut trees are inoculated with the spore before harvesting the fungus fruit. And, it takes three years to train dogs to detect the rich, pungent aroma hidden under the leaf litter.
The Australian season
Harvested (or is that discovered?) in the Australian winter, truffles aren’t one of our sunshine-kissed exports. And that means while the Northern Hemisphere enjoys their summer, Australian growers export to Europe, the US and Asia.
Although there are 450 to 500 truffle orchards or truffières, around the country, only 30 to 40 per cent have harvested truffles. Australia’s estimated production in 2018-19 was $7m. Meanwhile, in Europe, climate change and deforestation have continued to decrease their domestic production.
Manjimup grows 80% of the Southern Hemisphere’s black truffle, producing 10 tonnes annually.
The rich Karri loam soil, regular, plentiful rain a cool climate makes Manjimup a prolific producer.
Stuck at home we crave something different, something indulgent. When cities lockdown comfort food as well as extravagant recipes populate every food site.
Peak freshness is paramount with truffles. Shelf-life is only 7 to 14 days. Online ordering direct from suppliers is the best way to ensure freshness. Australian Truffle Traders will have your very own truffles in your kitchen 24-48 hours after being unearthed.
Truffles have a very short shelf life and should be devoured asap to enjoy them at their peak. Truffles will keep for 7-10 days if stored carefully, however, the heightened aroma and flavour will usually halve in 5 or so days.
48 hours ago my truffles were still in the rich black soil in Manjimup’s Karri forest. Then Charlie, one of Australian Truffle Traders trained truffle hunters unearthed them.
The anticipation is killing me as I rip the Aussie Post plastic with my bare hands. After opening the cooler and quickly despatching the ice packs I find the mason jar filled with 2 large nuggets of black gold. There’s also a card with Charlie’s bio. He’s a very good boy.
Next, I nestle the fungi with some eggs over paper towel for some extra special scrambled eggs on the weekend. A few shavings for the triple cream brie are next.
To order your very own black diamond, head to https://www.australiantruffletraders.com/shop
What to cook?
Black truffle’s rich earthiness takes the simplest of dishes to a whole other level. Tagliatelle with good butter, parmesan and a grating of truffle? Shaved over steaming porcini and pea risotto? Roast chicken? I’ll start with a twice-baked French Gruyere souffle, made with truffle-infused milk, finely chopped truffle and gruyere and finished with grated Manjimup marvellousness.
Australian Truffle Traders
The Booth family together bring a skill set that equips them well as truffières. Born in Scotland, Gavin served as a chef with the Royal Navy. Formerly with Australian Customs Mel used to train dogs to sniff out narcotics. She now helps other farmers train their dogs to sniff out truffles. Together they run Australian Truffle Traders.
Besides cultivating and selling these earthy delights, Mel and Gavin run truffle hunts during the season – June, July and August. Follow their truffle dogs Molly, Gidgee and Max as they unearth the ripest and dig up your very own truffle on their Instagram and Facebook pages.
Disclaimer: This Magnificent Life was gifted truffles from Australian Truffle Traders.