The first truffles of the winter season are turning up in New Zealand and Australia, including first production on very young (third year) trees in New South Wales. Tim Terry, one of Tasmania’s pioneer growers and the man who found Australia’s first black truffle in 1999, tells me that the truffle was found under a young Quercus ilex (holly oak). More information here, here and on Tim’s website. Tim’s coming over to give a talk to the NZ Truffle Association conference next weekend (Queen’s Birthday weekend) and will be spending a few nights in Limestone Hills, so I’ll be digging for more info.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand truffle harvest is already underway, with ripe truffles reported from several North Island truffieres. Down here in Canterbury, two truffieres have already made their first finds, but of unripe truffles. May in NZ is equivalent to November “up North”, and in Canterbury we reckon optimum ripeness isn’t achieved before the end of June – which fits in nicely with French tradition. French gourmands will tell you that the best truffles are found after Christmas – which in our case translates to after the shortest day.
So will I find my first truffles at Limestone Hills this year? Still too early to say. I haven’t noticed any sticking out of the ground (which is how the two local finds of unripe truffle were made), and my brulées are not as obvious as last year. A couple of wet months has prompted a fair bit of weed growth, but that doesn’t mean the fungus isn’t alive and well and fruiting happily. My fingers, and several other appendages, are crossed.