13.06.2016 - 13.06.2016
We had booked onto the truffle hunt a few days before, not really sure what to expect but the sound of trained Labradors hunting for truffles, taste tests and wine appealed to us so we were excited. Luckily for us we had spent several days at Sids campground the days before, every night sat around a big camp fire with a lovely elderly man called Bill who's passion was photographing and writing about fungi in the local area. He had been educating us on fungi, why it was so important and the different kinds there was so we were very excited to learn more and hunt for some in the ground. Meeting special people like Bill is one of the beautiful things about what we are doing, we love listening and learning about other people's lives and passions and when we came back from our hunt he had left but in our box of pots and pans we found a lovely note and one of his beautiful pictures of a special type of fungi he had been telling us about. It was a coincidence to meet and fungi enthusiast right before we go on a truffle hunt and sitting round the fire in the evenings with Bill was a pleasure.
Our truffle hunt started at 9.30am in a small town called Manjinup and upon arrival we were greeted by a lovely lady called Deb who showed us in brought us a coffee and we sat in front of a roaring log fire in the cellar door until it started. The cellar door is an old farm building but it has been converted into a bar, shop and cafe and is really beautifully done. Once everyone had arrived Deb introduced the farm and its beginnings and educated us on truffles. To farm truffles farmers and scientists work together, they grow the mushroom spores on juvenile trees and then plant these in a plantation. After several years these should multiply and eventually fruit. Truffles are a rare and very expensive type of fungi. They grow under the ground and have a symbiotic relationship with certain types of trees, they attach to their roots and work with each other, mostly oak and hazelnut trees. When the fungi fruits a truffle is formed under the ground and then they are left to mature and harvested in winter. They normally lay quite close to the surface and they infuse the surrounding soil with a strong delicious scent. This is where the dogs come in. They are trained to hunt for the smell of mature truffles. They walk through the plantation telling the harvesters where to look.
We then smelled and sampled some truffle in the form of a delicious cauliflower and truffle soup which had finely sliced truffle on top. It was absolutely yummy and had such a warm rich flavour. After we had learned about the truffles and the process the farmer takes to grow them we headed out to find some for ourselves. We washed our boots of any soil from outside and jumped into a carriage that was pulled by a tractor. This took us on a tour of the plantation and vineyards and met up with a dog and handler at work. Kate and Scrappy were already in the field and a team of handlers and dogs work dawn till dusk throughout the season. They walk the rows of trees, finding the truffles and marking them with a pink ribbon. Then a team of harvesters follow and dig them up.
Kate and Scrappy had an amazing bond and Scrappy was calm and impeccably trained. She went round everyone for a fuss and then it was back to business, we watched her trainer ask in hand gestures where the truffles were and scrappy went off, found them, touched her nose to the ground and pawed the ground. Kate and us followed and we were shown how to check if they are mature and dig them up. It was beautiful and amazing to watch the dog work and follow digging, never quite know what to expect. Sometimes they were tiny black balls, other times they were huge gnarly looking things, bigger than a hand. Every time Scrappy found one she got a treat and by the end she was getting a little distracted and tried to trick us a few times, pawing in places where they were none. Kate would then ask where it was and she would shamefully look away and walk to a different spot. We absolutely loved it and enjoyed watching Scrappy and Kate and joining in. Each time we unearthed a truffle we passed it round smelling it as each truffle smells a little different, some stronger than others as they are graded in different classes. In total we collected 1.2kg go truffle which is over $2000 worth. We couldn't help but get our photo with Scrappy as we had been so impressed with her and after a short journey on the tractor through the farm we were back in the cellar door.
A big table had been set up and we were invited to do a wine tasting of all the wines they produce and sell. We went through all the wines, whites, rose, reds and desert wines whilst our host explained the key flavours and the differences in producing them. It was lots of fun and they were delicious. We were then shown to the cafe and we had a sit down lunch, everything on the menu was truffle themed and the highlight for us was the truffle and mushroom risotto which was creamy, earthy and rich.
It lasted all day and it was almost 4pm by the time we got home. After lunch we were given a merchandise bag with information and souvenirs inside and we bought a bottle of our favourite wine to enjoy at a later date. It was a brilliant day of learning, fun and indulging and was something totally different we have never experienced before. We are so glad we decided to do it and would totally recommend it.... Thank you Truffle and Wine Co