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20

| BNE May/June 2016

ESCAPE

T

here was a time when the

only people mad enough to

visit Canberra in winter were

politicians, children on school excursions and

skiers on their way to the snow but a weird-

looking fungus highly prized by chefs and food

lovers is changing that.

Canberra is rapidly becoming the place to go

for truffles, not the chocolate variety but the

nobbly sort that grow underground near the

roots of trees (mostly oaks and hazelnuts) that

have been inoculated with the necessary spores.

Dogs are trained to sniff out these treasures

and, whether it’s because of their elusiveness

or their unique aroma and flavour, the truffles

they find can fetch as much as a few thousand

dollars a kilo.

Since the first truffle farms, called ‘trufferies’,

were established in and around the National

Capital a little over a decade ago, truffles have

been found to thrive in the region, where the

frosty mornings, sunny days and dry climate

provide perfect growing conditions.

Australia now has more than 150 trufferies,

with plantings in every state, but the harvest

in Canberra can extend for up to 14 weeks,

twice as long as in most regions. The truffles

are harvested from June to August – the best

time to join in the hunt and experience the

excitement of the chase, but you’ll have to rug

up very well indeed.

Jayson Mesman, new owner of The Truffle

Farm just 10km from Canberra Airport, is

predicting an early season on his property

and will host truffle hunts from 3 June to

3 September.

The

thrill

of the

hunt

Christine Salins

rugs up against the chill

in the Southern Tablelands to join the

hunt for highly prized truffles

In France, where truffles are part of the

lexicon of fine cuisine, pigs were traditionally

used to sniff out the truffles but while

Mesman keeps pigs on his farm – weighing

in at a hulking 120kg each – they can be too

boisterous and too fond of eating the truffles

to be trusted on a hunt these days. Instead,

dogs are more commonly used to detect the

truffle scent (Mesman has a team of six),

guiding the handler to the spot under the tree

where a little bit of gentle digging reveals the

pot of gold a few inches below.

The Truffle Farm has more than 3000 trees,

including French and English oak as well as

hazelnut trees, over 10 hectares or almost a

quarter of the 41 hectare farm.

The local climate almost replicates the

conditions in Perigord, France, but it takes