Australian truffles are officially in season, so we’ve decided to take a look at the history of this rare fungi and try to figure out why they’re so expensive.
When Tim Terry harvested Australia’s first black truffle from his farm in Tasmania in 1999, he knew he was onto something special. Fast forward to 2021 and Australia is the fourth largest truffle producer in the world with an entire calendar of events dedicated to celebrating each Australian truffle season.
The cool climate, pure water and fertile soil of Terry’s Deloraine property at the foothills of Tasmania’s Great Western Tiers provides the perfect growing conditions for the finest black truffles. Long lunches, hunts and a range of truffle-based products are just a few of the offerings at the country’s first ever truffle farm, but you don’t need to travel across the Bass Strait to get involved in the action this season.
Australia’s truffle growing regions
Australia’s truffle growing game is centred around two varieties – French black and Perigord. Western Australia’s Manjimup region produces the majority of Australia’s Perigord truffles (80-90 per cent!) but there are now more than 300 farms scattered across the country. With so many producers jumping on the truffle train, Australia’s production is estimated to be between 12 to 12.5 tonnes per year.
Extremes on both ends of the temperature gauge provide optimal growing conditions for this rare fungi, which explains why they thrive in WA. Truffle farmers in many parts of Tasmania, NSW and Victoria have also had some success but their focus has shifted towards agri-tourism and education.
Cost of truffles in Australia
Prices vary each year depending on availability, demand and quality of the season but the going rate for this year’s harvest is $2.50 per gram. Keeping in mind, most retailers have a 20 gram minimum and many recipes call for up to 10 grams per person, you’re looking at $50 a pop for dinner for two. If you’re cooking for a crowd, you better be ready to splash some serious cash.
“Why are truffles so expensive,” you ask? This comes down to a few factors. Firstly, they’re very difficult to find. Detection dogs must be expertly trained in order to pick up the intense aroma emitted by the truffle when it’s ready to be harvested. They take a long time to grow: inoculated trees often take 4-7 years to produce a harvestable truffle, and maximum yield is only reached after 12 years. There’s also a lot of hype around the black truffle. It carries a level of prestige and, therefore, people are willing to drop bulk cash on them. But for die-hard fans of this delectable fungi, it’s worth every cent.
Truffle hunting tours and experiences
Truffles are very difficult to grow. Full stop. And they’re even harder to grow on a large scale. So many truffle farmers have had to incorporate elements of agri-tourism in their business to diversify their income and future-proof their practice. The result? A wealth of hands-on experience to educate, entertain and treat guests to the wonders fo the truffle. We’ve selected a few great places to go on a truffle hunt and taste this rare fungi for yourself.
Viva La Truffle, Berrima NSW
Hosted at Brigid Kennedy’s stunning Berrima property, The Loch, Viva La Truffle will bring together some of the region’s finest truffle producers and chefs for a weekend of exquisite food and wine. The two-day fair allows visitors to meet the growers, purchase truffles, attend celebrity chef workshops and indulge in a truffle-inspired meal, washed down with local wine. The event will be held over the 7th-8th of August, and if you want to make a weekend of it, book a stay in one of the luxurious guest rooms at The Loch.
Hunting for Australian truffles at Red Hill Truffles, Mornington Peninsula VIC
Situated on the same stunning property that has been in the family since 1864, Red Hill Truffles is hosting a series of truffle hunts and dining experiences throughout the season. Join the super sniffer dog Thomas on a hunt for Perigord back truffles and choose to indulge in a truffle-inspired brunch, two-course lunch or eight-course degustation.
Small group truffle hunts at Truffle Paddock, Grantville VIC
Surrounded by ancient indigenous trees and thriving native wildlife, Truffle Paddock is one of the few Australian truffières to produce both the French black winter truffle and the small Italian white bianchetto truffle. Visitors to the farm will be greeted by Truffle Melbourne founder Nigel Wood with a warming coffee and a truffle-y treat before setting off in search of those elusive black and white diamonds. Let the expert truffle dogs ‘Forrest’ and ‘Comet’ lead the way, and wrap up the adventure with a glass of Champagne and a delicious truffle-inspired meal.
Truffle hunting at Robertson Truffle Farm, Southern Highlands NSW
Two hours south of Sydney, Robertson Truffles will be hosting hands-on truffles tours throughout the season. The stunning Southern Highlands provide the backdrop for an exciting 2-hour adventure where chances are, you’re going to get a little dirty! Robertson Truffle Farm was one of the first in Australia to begin producing the Black Perigord truffle so you know they’ve got a knack for it. If you’re keen to purchase some truffle products while you’re there (or online), retail sales begin from July onward.
Truffle hunts and gourmet lunch with Experience Nature, Marulan NSW
A delectable lunch awaits those who make it through the exciting truffle hunt in Greenwich Park near Goulburn. Traipse among the oak trees with the truffle dogs as your guides in search of black Perigord truffles before settling in for a three-course lunch. Expect lunch to include dishes like the truffle infused butternut pumpkin soup, truffle chicken en Papillote and a white chocolate brownie with truffle infused drizzle. Four carefully selected wines will help you wash everything down. Tours take place every Saturday from June 26th to August 7th.
Truffle hunts at Macenmist, Bredbo NSW
Just an hour’s drive from Canberra, nestled along the Cappanana River, Macenmist specialise in two things: black truffles and wine. A winning combination in our eyes! Macenmist offers truffle hunts with your choice of breakfast or lunch, as well as family-friendly hunts where the kids can get stuck into the fun. During Truffle season (June to September), the farmgate is open from 11am-4pm everyday.
Lead image: © Frances Aldrijich