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… 😉
Welcome – somewhat later than planned – to the second Limestone Hills truffle update for 2014. A lot’s been happening. We’ve been deluged with rain – the wettest autumn since we moved to Waipara 17 years ago. Floods have eroded gullies, taken out a fence and washed out a track, but the sun is now out and the truffles are doing rather better than we expected six weeks ago when the Waipara River was roaring past at 250 cubic metres per second (it usually idles past us at a cumec or two). Here’s Rosie with our first Perigord black of the season, found at the end of June:
The truffle hound has been on great form, especially when taking visitors out on truffle hunts. Rosie is always charming company, and has never yet sent any winter visitor away empty handed… Continue reading
A couple of weeks ago, RNZ National’s Country Life programme – in the shape of reporter Cosmo Kentish-Barnes – called in at the Hills and accompanied Rosie on a truffle hunt. I did far too much talking, but Cosmo skilfully edited my ramblings into a semi-coherent narrative. And we found truffles. Listen by clicking on the button below, or on the Country Life page here. There are pictures too…
I’ve just sent our final truffle newsletter for the year. Here’s what I had to say…
It’s been an amazing year for us, with truffles produced in every month from January to November, the production of our first olive oil, and a good grape harvest.
Truffle season finally over: We drew the curtains on the truffle season on November 11th. Rosie had just found a very nice haul of 891 g of assorted Burgundy truffles (in about 5 minutes), but the aroma of the best was not very intense so – aside from a few nice ones that made their way to Roots in Lyttleton for their first birthday celebrations – we have decided to leave all the remaining truffles (and there are quite a few) in the ground until the New Year. If this year is anything to go by, then we should have good ripe Tuber aestivum/uncinatum available from late January onwards.
We’ve been on a steep learning curve with our Burgundy truffles. As the only commercial producers in New Zealand, we’ve been picking things up as we go, talking to contacts overseas and in the science community to try to build our understanding of how these beautiful truffles handle NZ conditions. In our little patch of trees, it appears that T aestivum/uncinatum fruits more or less continuously year round. Fully mature truffles – with intense aroma and hazelnut or latte coloured flesh – are produced between January and July. From August to October/November truffles develop aroma, which can be quite strong, but don’t seem to develop mature flesh. We’ve been describing these as “spring ripe” truffles, and selling the best for $500/kg (half price – a bargain!). Handled properly, they produce excellent truffled scrambled eggs.
Winter is here: Ground frosts are crisping up the morning grass but the sun is still shining and early winter is looking green and pleasant in the Waipara Valley. Truffle dogs are out and working in the region’s truffieres, but Rosie the truffle machine still finds time for a little rest and recreation:
(Rosie reviews the valley from the steps at Black Estate)
Our Burgundy truffles are back in production, with a very nice 240 gram truffle delivered to Saggio di Vino in Christchurch last Friday, and a 38g truffle despatched in a slice of ripe brie and in breakfast scrambled eggs for visiting friends. Gareth has counted a further 19 truffle “push ups” — truffles pushing up through the soil surface — so there will certainly be more available over the next couple of months. If you are interested in sampling our Burgundy truffles as they ripen, please email Gareth and he’ll add you to the list. First come, first served, as always…
Bianchetto truffles: We’re hoping to start harvesting good ripe truffle very soon, and expect to be able to despatch existing orders in the next week or two. Once again, let us know if you want to add your name to the list.
Périgord black truffles: Rosie’s sniffing around on a weekly basis at the moment, but as yet we have no sign of ripe truffle.
Back in May, I started a Limestone Hills truffle harvest newsletter. I’ve just sent out the fourth in the series – the last for the year. I had intended to parallel post the newsletters to the blog, but for a number of reasons (one of which has been dealt with by moving the Limestone Hills site to a new web host), I never got round to it. This, therefore, is by way of catching up. It was originally mailed out on May 7th. To sign up to our newsletter, fill in the box in the sidebar.
The story so far: summer 2013 has been a wonderful time for Burgundy truffles, and our tiny little patch of trees continues to astonish us with its productivity. I blogged about the most recent record-breaking monster – all 533g of it – here, and the earlier 529g big boy featured on our Facebook page and in The Press. Both truffles were sold to Saggio di Vino, who made excellent use of the beautifully aromatic truffles. Burgundy truffle has also been on the menu at Black Estate in Waipara (excellent truffle butter), and served at Roots in Lyttleton. So far this year we’ve produced nearly 5 kg of truffles, but not all were saleable. We’re still learning about quality control with this species, and we’re not willing to let truffles go if they’re not going to give a good account of themselves when they hit the plate.