It was a rotten old night due to heavy rain and wind, however, the hardy BBC members, resilient as ever, ensured that there was a decent attendance at Storytellers to listen to another diverse subject, namely ‘The Art of Truffling”. Member Mike Katz and his wife Frederique shared their experiences of planting a trufferie and the delights which come from owning a truffle dog, Tibor.
Mike took us on a fascinating introduction to truffles, explaining what exactly truffles are, Mike & Frederique’s journey into the world of truffles, comparing dogs v pigs to find them and finishing off with a demonstration. He told us about the White Truffle, found in Italy, and now being attempted in WA. We learnt about the Black Truffle along with Summer, Autumn, Winter and Chinese Truffles. The Winter Truffle is regarded as the most powerful of the dark truffles and found in many parts of the world, Périgord in France but also Italy, Spain and now Australia.
As we listened to Mike’s story it was very evident that there was a lot of hard work, expense and time invested in attempting to produce truffles. One needed to try and find the most suitable land, not always the best soil, establish an irrigation system, get the right PH balance, fence the site, plant the inoculated seedlings, wait and pray!
Key success factors being:
- Soil – PH, Friable, limestone is ideal.
- Temperature – at least 20 days a year < 0
- Properly inoculated seed stock-Oak, Hazelnut
- Time, Talent, Tenacity
- A good dog -Tibor in their case
For their part Mike & Frederique happened across ‘Truffling’ after a chance read of the Delicious Magazine back in 2001. Something struck a chord with them. It was very different and there was of course the associated romance that truffles have along with other high-end luxury goods such as caviar and fine wines. By 2003 they had found their plot of land, west of Goulburn, and built an 8 mega-litre dam, ploughed, balanced the PH and planted a mix of inoculated French Oak, English Oak and Hazelnut trees, 720 in total. They have had success with producing truffles, though certainly not in a commercial volume (as against their Wagyu beef interests). In fact, their trees are 15 years old now, and about 10% of the trees have produced truffles. These trees are marked for reference. So as explained there is plenty of hard work involved. Commercially the going price per kilo of truffle is in the region of $2000 – $3000 ..yes, a luxury indeed!
Mike talked about the difficulty of actual discovering the truffles, as they are found under the soil at the base of the trees, and not evident. It takes the fine senses of pigs and dogs to sniff them out. He showed a great photo of a huge pig, presumably in France, in action, earning its keep. A close-up would probably show the farmer distinguished by a lack of fingers! Mike & Frederique bought a Lagotto breed of dog, Tibor, and took it to be trained as per airport sniffer dogs. Tibor now has perfected the art of discovering truffles, makes no attempt to eat the truffle preferring a well-deserved treat from generally Frederique.
We were treated to a demonstration of Tibor in action after several pieces of truffle were secreted around the room. No problem for Tibor.
Finally, Mike gave a few tips on how to serve truffles:
- Do not cook
- Scrape or slice on plain food
- Scrambled eggs
- Mashed potato
- Pasta without pesto
Many thanks must go to Mike & Frederique and Meredith Aveling for arranging them to share their wonderful story with the BBC. The subject really resonated with the audience evidenced by the large number of questions.
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