What are truffles?
The truffle is a fungus that grows underground. In Australia it forms between December to February. When formed it has the shape of a tiny cup, of which the edges will close up and form the truffle. The interior of the truffle will grow tiny veins, is white inside, with a reddish colour skin, and with small warts on the outer layer. As the truffle matures in June/September it changes to black inside with white veins. Only then does it emit the powerful aroma that sends the gastronomes into a heavenly spin.
The zones of production of Tuber Melanosporum are situated between 40th and 47th degrees of South latitude. This species needs a temperate climate with well marked seasons. During its maturing phase it freezes underground at -7° C. The ideal climate for truffles is: winter with nights at -1°-5°, and days between 10° to 14°C, spring with alternating periods of damp and heat, hot summers interrupted by thunderstorms or irrigation events in late February / March and an autumn which is not too wet. However, Tuber Melanosporum is a very resistant truffle, both against drought and flood. It is vulnerable during its growing cycle, during which both shortage and excess of water can be fatal.
What trees are used for truffle hosts?
There are many trees known to be able to host the truffle fungi; English oaks, Holm oaks, Hornbean and Hazelnut trees to name a few. Some of these trees may be better suited to some soils than others and the industry is too young in Australia to make any definitive conclusions as to which species are the best.
What animals are used to hunt for truffles?
Specially trained dogs are used to identify the location of the truffles. Any dog will find truffles if it has a good relationship with its trainer and enjoys the game. Dogs used currently include Springer Spaniels, Labradors and Lagoto (a traditional European truffle hunting dog), all having their good and bad points.