HARVESTING

Age of trees at harvest

"Tree innoculation techniques have improved a great deal since the first plantings in Australia, and not only has colonisation levels of seedlings increased, certification has recently become available. "

Successful Australian truffle growers are typically finding their first truffles after approximately seven years (some as early as four!). Their experiences indicate that production increases each year and at ten years a substantial crop and return is achieved.

However truffle production is still a spasmodic and uncertain process with much variation between truffiéres and there is still much to learn before yields become more predictable. All this contributes further to the mystique of this exquisite gourmet delight.

Timing of harvest

Australian grown, French Black Winter Truffles and Bianchetto Truffles harvest in the winter starting as early as June and continuing through to August or even early September.

Black Summer Truffle harvesting commences in December and runs through to early March.

Typically a truffiére's first few truffles are produced near the middle of these seasons.

Dogs to locate the truffles

Traditionally in Europe pigs were used to locate truffles. The truffle emits the aroma that mimics the female pig’s pheromone. Pigs (especially the males) are drawn to the attraction. It’s probably not the safest thing to stand in the way of a pig and his girlfriend! These days whilst pigs were traditionally dogs perform the task admirably and cause less management issues (such as lost fingers!). Consequently these days dogs have taken over the role of truffle detection (after all they are “mans best friend”!).

A trained truffle dog with his strong sense of smell can detect the presence of a truffle growing beneath the soil. They are trained to indicate the spot where a truffle is growing. We know of one dog handler who has dogs that can distinguish between an immature truffle and a perfectly ripe one and indicates by “pawing at the ground”.

There are companies that are currently developing electronic truffle detection devices, known as an e-nose. This will likely be used for grading.

A small landscape planting could be examined with a human nose (and dirty knees)

Harvesting method

Once the truffle is located it must be evaluated for aroma and ripeness before being disturbed further. {An analogy is picking a green tomato, or a fully ripened one.} If it is properly matured, it should then be removed with minimal soil disturbance. It is thought that once a tree produces its first truffle they will continue thereafter, but some do skip a year. If you used a fork or rake, apart from the fact that this is likely to damage the truffle, the root disturbance may affect next year’s truffle production.

After harvesting the truffle, excess soil is removed by gently brushing. Washing the truffle in water may possibly hasten the deterioration process, but the local market generally prefers clean truffles. Then maintain refrigeration (which is easier in winter) and send to the wholesaler or customer as soon as possible.

Methods for transporting truffles to market, especially for export, are currently being studied. Several methods of packaging and oxygen replacement with nitrogen gas are being trialled to determine the best method to maintain quality.