Truffle harvest newsletter #3 (July 2013)

Winter so far: We’ve been busy over the last few weeks, finding truffles and despatching them to satisfied customers. Rosie the trufflehound’s fame has been spreading, thanks to a lovely photoessay at POD Gardening by Paul Thompson which records our discovery back in April of the largest Burgundy truffle yet harvested in New Zealand – all 533g of it.

Homeward bound, truffle in hand…

The weather’s been oscillating between snowy cold and unseasonal warmth, but seems to have settled into the latter for the last week or so. It’ll soon be time to get stuck in to pruning vineyard and trees (500+), not to mention the 100+ roses in the garden.

Bianchetto truffles: Our bianchetto harvest has been going well, and our truffles have featured on menus at Saggio di Vino, Edesia, and Chillingworth Road in Christchurch, at Roots in Lyttleton and Chantellini’s in Hanmer. We’ll be at the Waipara Valley Farmer’s Market tomorrow morning with a couple of hundred grammes of good bianchetto to sell – part of the market’s welcome to the 80+ chefs attending the NZ Chefs Association conference in Christchurch this weekend. On Saturday afternoon we’ll be welcoming the chefs to Limestone Hills for a truffle tour and a chance to see Rosie in action. Might be a bit crowded down on the front paddock…

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Truffle harvest newsletter #2 (June 2013)

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:

RosieBlack 1
(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.

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The good oil (not quite)


Shortly before we left for our big European tour — of which more later — the team from Restaurant Schwass (soon to be relaunched in new premises) popped up to Waipara to harvest our olives. The general idea was that they would take the olives and turn them into oil for the restaurant, and let us have some for our own use. But as you can see, they were a little — how shall I put this — underprepared for the size of the task. They left with olives for pickling. Oil will have to wait for next year, and a larger workforce. A good time was had by all. Rosie the beagle makes an appearance at lunch…

Olives in England

Those who have delved deep into On The Farm may have stumbled on an article on global warming that I wrote for a New Zealand small farm magazine a couple of years ago. I’ve been keeping up with the issue ever since, thanks to excellent resources like RealClimate and Google’s news alerts. I’m certain that global warming is going to be a serious challenge for the world in the not-too-far-distant future, but I lean towards the optimistic end of opinion (ie, we can fix it, if we…). But I’m nowhere near as heroically optimistic as Marco Diacono, an Italian living in Honiton, Devon. As the BBC reports:

“Mr Diacono aims to bring in his first olive oil within the next seven years but just in case, he has planted an olive species used to frost and snow.”

I think they mean an olive cultivar, and I would guess we’re talking the Tuscan trinity — frantoio, leccino and pendolino — all of which are growing nicely at Limestone Hills. Even so, I would guess that there wouldn’t be enough heat (yet) to ripen the fruit — not commercially, at least — for a good many years. But I did note that while staying in Kew before Christmas, olives seemed to have become a trendy front garden tree — and there was even some black fruit to be seen. Time, perhaps, for a special English revision of The Olive Book.

Meanwhile, readers who have been waiting for news of our first olive oil will have to wait another year. Blackbirds ate the lot before I got the bird scarers organised. I am therefore planning autumn feasts with songbirds on the menu. Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie?