What is it about truffles? Alluring and expensive this subterranean fungi with the world’s most arresting aroma is a culinary 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.
France’s Périgord is synonymous with the prized black truffle (Tuber melanosporum). The first inoculated trees were planted in Tasmania in 1993 and Australia’s first black truffle was harvested in 1999. Now successfully cultivated and harvested in every state and territory (except the NT), the homegrown industry is flourishing.
Manjimup in Western Australia leads the way. It’s here in WA’s southwest that the winter black truffle is king. Or Queen. 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 the nation’s Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum).
Once considered a mere culinary status symbol with an expensive price tag Michelin-starred kitchens started showing them off when social media became a restaurant tool of the trade. And all the while, while craved for their exclusivity many Australian chefs grew to know 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).
Starting a truffle orchard or truffière is a serious, long-term investment like producing other culinary treasures such as saffron and caviar. It can take up to ten years after inoculating oak or hazelnut trees 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 in the Australian winter, truffles aren’t one of our sunshine-kissed exports. And that means while the Northern Hemisphere enjoys its summer, Australian growers export black gold to Europe, the US and Asia.
Although there are more than 300 truffle orchards or truffières around the country, only 30 to 40 per cent have successfully harvested truffles.
It is predicted that over 20,000 kg of truffle will be produced per year by 2026 and potentially 40,000 kg by 2030. (Australian Truffle Industry Association (ATIA) Strategic Plan 2021-2026). Meanwhile, in Europe, climate change and deforestation have continued to decrease 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.
The scent of fresh truffle is one of nature’s joys. Give a food-lover a truffle and you will fill their heart with glee.
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.
From Manjimup to my place in 48 hours. Two days ago my truffles were still in the Manjimup’s Karri forest’s deep rich soil. Then, Charlie, one of the Australian Truffle Traders’ expertly-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 here
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 truffle hunters. 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.
Truffle Kerfuffle recently unveiled a delectable program and an incredible lineup of chefs and culinary talent for Western Australia’s most decadent food festival held in the heart of Australian truffle country, Manjimup, from 23 to 25 June 2023.
Disclaimer: This Magnificent Life was gifted truffles from Australian Truffle Traders.