“There are two types of people who eat truffles: those who think truffles are good because they are dear and those who know they are dear because they are good.” – J.L. Vaudoyer.
When people think of truffles, France or Italy generally come to mind. Not many of us would associate these distinctly delicious fungi with Australia, but it turns out that the world’s largest island has the ideal climate to grow them – and thanks to a farm in Canberra you can learn how they’re grown too.
Turalla Truffles was born in 2005 after Damian Robinson heard that truffles were being harvested from Tasmanian oak trees. Considering this type of tree grew particularly well in his locale, he decided to give growing these desirable fungi a go.
“The truffle is the fruiting body of the fungus called Melano Spurum which grows under the ground and attaches itself to the roots of a host tree. We have planted Tasmanian oak trees inoculated with this fungus within a fenced area much like an orchard,” said Damian.
For the past several years Turalla Truffles have dug up these fungi, but recently they decided to take on WWOOFers to help around the ‘orchard’. This opportunity arose following some Canadians looking to extend their Australian Working Holiday Visa along with a decision to take a more sustainable approach to truffle farming.
“There is a small window at the end of each season (winter) that we are able to go into the trufflerie and prune and weed,” said Damian. “The traditional approach to control these weeds is to use ‘Roundup’, but after talking with other growers I decided to follow a more organic path.”
Roundup is the name given to glyphosate herbicide by Mensanto which is used as a commercial weed killer. It’s reported to cause soil degradation and micronutrient deficiency in plants while some argue that it poses a risk to human health.
Thanks to Damian’s decision to be more organic and the extra help from the Canadians, Turalla Truffles had a particularly successful harvest. Not long after did Damian realise the benefits that could come from hosting some Willing Workers On Organic Farms.
“The Canadians spent two weeks weeding the trufferie with me and my kids. The yield that year proved to be very successful so I decided becoming a WWOOF host would be the best way to continue this,” said Damian.
Now WWOOFers have the chance to indulge in some Australian truffles while learning how to grow them using a sustainable agriculture. And if they’re lucky they may even be able to go out on a truffle hunt too.
“I think people who are interested in truffles enjoy seeing how they are grown and watching how the dogs find them because it’s a lot of fun,” said Damian. “Another appeal is that truffles can take on flavours from their surrounding area, meaning that each farm can have a different taste than the next.”
“We grow French Black Winter Truffles which are renowned for their particular and delightful fragrance and great expense. The Australian variety is exactly the same as the French one, but each trufferie can boast a slightly different aroma which I assume comes from the variations in soil and climate.”
As Damian begins life as a WWOOF host, he hopes anyone who passes through his farm will have leave with some of his truffle knowledge along with an experience they won’t forget.
“Hopefully WWOOFers will leave a bit wiser about the vagaries of growing truffles and with some fond memories of new friends made, too.”
If hunting for turffles sounds like something you’d like to do, then sign up to be a WWOOFer in Australia here and give it a go.