Out we trekked though this morning for an outdoorsy tour with a difference. Howard didn't actually know where we were going as I arranged it as a surprise. The lovely Jill from FoodPath Culinary Tours with a Difference had arranged a great treat for us, other Highlanders, a few people from Canberra and a small crowd from Sydney. This region is well known for wine, lovely cool climate wines and Jill is working hard to put the area on the foodie map as well. A couple of months ago you might remember I went on a fascinating mushroom tunnel tour with Jill.
If you've been watching the foodie media in the past week you may have read about Australia's largest truffle being unearthed near Robertson. Ted and Barbara Smith from Yelverton Truffles and their truffle dog, Jet the Wonder dog, dug up the huge 1.172 kilo Perigord black truffle and unleashed a week long media storm, which you can read about online. This tour of their Truffiere was booked in long before this special find so they had an unexpectedly busy week before we arrived but were still the most gracious hosts.
Following a talk about what truffles are and the history of truffle growing in Australia we headed out in the fields.
The trees are a mix of Quercus Ilex and Quercus Robur inoculated as seedlings with truffle spores.
We had to wear booties over our shoes to protect the biosecuirty of the farm and prevent foreign spores or bacteria being walked in.
Robertson naturally had many of the necessary features for truffle growing: friable soil, warm summers and cold winters with frosts. The one feature that was contrary was our volcanic soil is highly acidic rather than alkaline so 50 tons per hectare of lime was added.
"We don't care to eat toadstools that think they are truffles" Mark Twain
Hard to believe this black splat is a prized truffle selling for more than $2000 per kilo! Round here there are plenty of wombat poos that look much the same.
After a good look around the Truffiere we were treated to shaved truffle slices on hors d'oeuvres of bread and egg or bread and camembert. Then a lovely bowl of potato soup with truffle infused butter. Warming and tasty.
As this is not my first foodie tour of late you might be wondering why I go along. A couple of reasons, meeting lovely people, seeing new places and learning about food, history and taste in a way you can''t in a supermarket. We spent a very enjoyable morning on this tour.
And the verdict? Are truffles worth the cost and challenge of growing them? No, not to me. I must either be a philistine or have no palate because I could not taste a thing and in truth neither could anyone else I asked. I still have fun and am very glad to have expanded my knowledge. I recommend you go and find out for yourself.