Michael’s big one keeps on growing (and other stories)


Michael Hyson’s first truffle is still growing — “being pushed up from underneath”, he tells me. Compare this picture (above) taken earlier this week with the one taken when he first found it — there’s definitely some inflation going on, and we can see that bugs and slugs are beginning to enjoy a feast. If I were you, Mike, I’d be covering that big boy with soil and sand… The local press have also been covering Mike’s success, including his urgent need to train a truffle dog. Meanwhile, closer to home (in fact just down the road) local grower David Powell has found his first bianchetto (tuber borchii) truffles, on eight year old trees.


David summoned me to his Broomfield truffiere ten days ago, and there were plenty of bianchetto to be seen pushing up around his trees. That’s great news for David and for the Canterbury region, which now boasts four black truffle and three bianchetto producers — making us the leading New Zealand truffle-growing province. This early crop of truffles is unlikely to fully ripen, however, so we’ll be waiting for winter and the main crop to savour his success.

Back at Limestone Hills, we’ve been having some truffle and mushroom fun as well. This lovely plate of mushrooms was cooked by Professor Wang Yun and his French colleague at Plant & Food Research Alexis Guerin-Laguette on my barbecue last weekend.


In the centre, we have a saffron milk cap prepared by Alexis in the Provençal manner: grilled over charcoal with the cap holding a generous dash of local olive oil, garlic and parsley. Wang then stir fried some porcini with onion and garlic. This was all done for the benefit of TV NZ’s Asia Downunder programme, who were filming a profile of Wang. We strolled around our trees with Peg, pretending to be on a hunt for truffles, examined roots, and I told tales of Wang’s exploits in the truffle business. Great fun, and the mushrooms were delicious. The show will be broadcast in May, and available on Youtube soon after. I’ll link to it as soon as it’s up.

The best news was that Wang had a good look around my small Burgundy truffle patch, and found excellent truffle mycorrhizae. That’s exciting, because it means the truffles could be close to fruiting (this year, or next?), and that would be a first for New Zealand. Consider my fingers crossed…

Marlborough’s first truffle


This is the first truffle of the 2010 New Zealand season, the first ever found in the Marlborough region, and a first for Marlborough grower Michael Hyson and his Waihopai Valley truffière. It’s nowhere near ripe yet, but as Michael exclaimed when he rang me with his news yesterday morning, “Gareth, it’s huge!”. And it is at least big — that scale is in centimetres, so the top of the truffle is about 7 cm across. The very slight reddish tinge to the surface is typical of immature melanosporum, and Michael reports that the flesh (seen through a nick in the skin) is still white. That skin damage and the fact that it has grown out of the soil surface means the chances of it surviving through to full ripeness (probably late June/early July — around three months) are poor, but where there’s a big one, there’s almost certainly more. The Hyson family’s trees are eight years old. I hope their success is echoed in other young truffieres around the country in the coming season.

I also have my fingers firmly crossed for this year’s harvest at Limestone Hills. At the beginning of the week I was pretty certain that I’d found a couple of “push ups” — where the soil surface cracks open as a truffle grows rapidly underneath — but I resisted the temptation to check on progress because one slip with the trowel, and the truffles might never ripen.