| BNE May/June 2016
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
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