A couple of weeks ago, in pursuit of knowledge to be inserted into my next book on truffles, I was fortunate enough to be able to visit the Truffle & Wine Company‘s truffiere in Manjimup, Western Australia — said to be the most productive truffière in the world. The company is coy about revealing numbers, but the Manjimup region probably produced somewhere between 5 and 7 tonnes of Perigord black truffles this winter, and most of those came from the 13,000 trees in the Truffle & Wine Co plantation. At the peak of the harvest, the company was washing and grading as much as 200kg of truffle per day — almost certainly more than New Zealand’s total melanosporum harvest over the entire winter season.
The truffière was established in 1997 and produced its first truffles in 2003. There’s a picture of their first 1kg truffle in The Truffle Book. Since that book was published the Manjimup harvest has increased by leaps and bounds, and WA truffles are now exported around the world — including to France. It’s a fascinating demonstration of what is possible in a well-managed southern hemisphere truffière, and it’s no surprise that the number of truffle trees planted around Manjimup is increasing rapidly.
Also on display at Manjimup was the truffle aroma wheel developed by Professor Garry Lee of the University of Western Australia, launched at the recent Australian Truffle Growers Association conference in Tasmania.
For a higher resolution version, click here. For more on its potential uses, see the ABC report on the launch.
I haven’t yet had a chance to discuss the aroma wheel with Professor Lee, but will do so soon. There will be more in the next book…
My thanks to Harry Eslick, who guided our little tour party around the truffière and answered almost all of my questions… 😉
Aunty’s been showing a bit of interest in truffles recently. Aunty BBC, that is. I don’t quite know how they got hold of the idea, but the Charlie Crocker Show on BBC Radio Kent decided they wanted to talk to someone about truffles in New Zealand, and they picked on me. Charlie invited me on to her sofa (virtual, in this case) on Monday evening, Kent time – 7-15am, sunrise in NZ, and we chatted merrily for half an hour. You can listen to the show on the web, at least for a week. It’s a fair while since I’ve been on the BBC. Back in the early 80s, when I was being a video guru, I used to claim that the only BBC station I’d never been on was Radio Three (the classical music station).
Meanwhile, over on Radio Four, their correspondent has been truffling his way round Bill & Pat de Corsie’s truffiere south of Sydney, where 500 five year-old trees have produced six kilos of truffles this winter. On the way they’ve encountered one or two uniquely Aussie problems…
“The bloody wombats were getting in over the fence,” Bill tells me. “We had no idea they could climb.” Installing an electric wire has solved that problem, but it is still no deterrent to the local kangaroos, which simply hop over.
You can probably ferret around on the BBC and find the audio. From Our Own Correspondent was broadcast on Saturday 26 August, 2006 at 1130 BST on BBC Radio 4.
Looks like it’s turning out to be a good truffle season in Australia. Tim Terry has announced his first shipment of truffles to France, and Perigord Truffles Of Tasmania (PTT) are about to ship to Japan. Meanwhile, a New South Wales grower tells me that she’s harvesting a kilo a week from five year old trees.
Tim’s waxing lyrical about his harvest. In an item on the ABC’s The World Today he says:
“It’s the beginning of a coming of age, if you like. We’ve gone from producing a truffle, now to producing enough to put a small trial shipment into Europe, and now what we want to do is get some more feedback from them, saying we want 500 kilos a week. And that’s the sort of feedback that we are getting. They want a lot of truffles and we can’t supply them at the moment.”
He’s clearly a happy man:
“Here we are in the foot of the Great Western Tiers, there’s a bit of snow on top of the mountains today, Spring, the birds are happening, truffles coming out of the ground. It’s just a magnificent place and great to be alive, isn’t it?”
As they say down here, good on ya, mate. Transcript here. Podcast available, but you may have to dig in the archive (originally broadcast August 3rd).