Selling truffles in Europe (and what it means for us)

Written by : Posted on May 27, 2016 : No Comments

This is another of the videos recorded on the Barcelona Truffle Tour run by Micologia Forestal & Aplicada in Barcelona.

Upfront I apologise for the shaky camera bits and extended graphics but they’re there because the audio was important. It’s the hassles of being a one-man camera crew. You’d get as much from this as a transcript after you’ve seen the video (and I may create just that). It runs for 23 mins  and the last few minutes from about 15.5 mins in, are very applicable to Australia and the canning comments  at 19.45 mins about food safety health risks.

Below is an off the screen image of the spreadsheet Jordi Serentill shared, that shows how they have assessed each of these growers (or wild hunters) truffles and what they paid. (season 2014).

Translating – ‘Pago’ is Payout (in Euros). ‘Destrio’ means truffles that have not enough quality for pieces or peelings. Marcos translated it as a Catalan word that means “what’s left after selecting everything”. The red circle highlight on Supplier 4’s delivery shows the percentage of dirt included, and the other circle is a prime grower with 62% of the truffle in the premium range of 15 grams plus. The columns to the right of Sencera +15 are the Euro amounts that were paid to that supplier for the different quality.

The growers/hunter get a copy of their spreadsheet and payment with their following week collection.



And in this slide are their selling prices week by week per kg. – the Laumont price to the harvester or growers paid at origin.  Here the comma in the price is a decimal point equivalent.

As Jordi explains in the video, at the beginning of the season the truffle is poor but at Christmas time, no-one cares so they buy it. After Christmas the price drops again. Then in late January and early February the truffle is good and fresh sales start as well as purchases from the processors who want to buy good truffle for canning, juicing and prepared products – such as adding to foie gras, cheeses, sausage etc.

Jordi says in the video, no-one knows when that second peak will be, other than that there will be one.

Without the complication of canning or processing in Australia (yet) and the wide swings in demand and therefore price, our relatively stable price across the season looks like nirvana. Imagine a jump from being paid $1,000+ a kilo to $700 in a week and back again four weeks later.

That’s a true supply and demand system, are we ready for it?


Cold enough for you?

Written by : Posted on May 23, 2016 : No Comments

I’ve been working on Climate mapping tools for the RIRDC/ATGA WIKI project and thought that I’d share with you this seasonal observation. I’ve used Queanbeyan as the data point for this as we’ve also been watching the temperature probe in the test we’re running for moisture levels at nearby Sutton. All the regions growers who are involved in the Canberra Truffle Festival are being pestered for truffle sales and all they can say is  ‘Not yet, we’re waiting for some good frosts’. Yes there’s signs of truffles but the strongest aroma and blacker gleba (flesh) only starts after at least a week of cold in their region. It really is like someone has thrown a switch.

As I write this on the 23 May, there has been one ( one and a half was the report from the paddock)frost recorded. The temperature trend is definitely downwards  but usually in May they have around five days of frost. We still have a week left to go, but I’m sure the growers are anxious to get that cold snap. Sutton_temperature graph23May

Well, there was frost on the ground but what we look for is the 20cm deep probe (lime green on this graph) as that’s were the truffles should be hiding if the soil isn’t too compacted.

Members can login and watch that ongoing monitoring, but I’ll add another post or two about the results.

I encourage you to visit the CSIRO Climate Change site and their Threshold Calculator ( before it’s unfunded?) You’ll need to swear you’re of sane mind and don’t drink much to get in, and then look for your region, or nearest town. Have a play with the parameters, choose your month.

It looks like this below. If you use their Climate Change modelling ( ACCESS is a good start) you’ll see a change in the number of days of cold drop. Only by one or two days in the midwinter months, but it’s the leadup to ripeness that seems most variable.




















Meanwhile, on the other side of the continent the Bureau statistics for the first 23 days of May 2016 for Manjimup say –
Mean temperature is 9.3 , Lowest 5.3,  Highest 15.5 °C . According to the charts there was no zero °C days last year.

While the truffle harvest was down in W.A. last year it is always a surprise to those east coast growers that there can still be good truffle without frosts.

Comments and theories welcome.

Fred Harden

Our first ‘real’ black truffle cook book

Written by : Posted on May 14, 2016 : Comments Off on Our first ‘real’ black truffle cook book

There have been a number of attempts at an Australian truffle cookbook. I’ve got some of them, photocopied stapled sheets with recipes that assume you’ll have some Tuber magnatum in the fridge. So it’s with real pleasure that we welcome this hardbound ‘real’ cookbook to show how the public can use our growers produce. It wouldn’t serve much to carp about it’s inadequacies (the photographs are all of the ‘minimal background, big plates with small serves’ style and some have a feeling that the schedule for the shoot day(s) left them go cold) but with this volume in one hand and a similarly priced truffle in the other, you’re ready to start a wonderful time together.

If we all go out and buy it, maybe the next edition can correct a few things, mostly misconceptions, and add some menu suggestions for some of our other varieties as they become wider available.

I asked my wife Jan O’Connell if we can re-post her review from her Australian Food Timeline website. There’s a link at the bottom of this page that will take you to Booktopia for an advance purchase that is the first of our affiliate links with them. The Association gets a small cut and it costs you no more. Of course you’ll see it in the bookshops soon and the usual Amazon and Book Depository sites.
Fred Harden


The Truffle Cookbook by Rodney Dunn - cover“Cooking with truffles doesn’t have to be complicated. My favourite truffle dish is scrambled eggs. The way we make it requires a bit of forethought, as the eggs need to be stored for a day or two in a sealed container with a truffle. The truffle aroma penetrates the eggshells and is absorbed by the yolks.  You don’t even need to add truffle to the dish – the flavour is already there.

In The Truffle Cookbook Rodney Dunn agrees. He makes his scrambled eggs with truffle butter and it’s just one of a number of easy dishes designed to introduce you to the extraordinary flavour of this extraordinary black fungus. “When using truffle for the first time, I advise you to keep it simple,” Rodney says.  So, truffle toast, truffled mashed potato, truffled mac and cheese.

But he goes way beyond simple. The Truffled Coulibiac, which he describes as a “very grand fish pie of Russian origin”, is a complicated assembly of puff pastry, crepes, mushrooms, rice, eggs and salmon fillet. And truffles, of course. Dunn will also have you making your own truffled sausages, your own pasta, and your own brioche doughnuts (to be accompanied by truffled custard and poached quince).

So, yes, there are dishes here that will satisfy accomplished cooks and sophisticated palates – chicken broth with marrow and truffle dumplings, for example, or crumbed sweetbreads with truffle mayonnaise. It’s restaurant-quality food adapted for the home kitchen. Many dishes are quite labour-intensive – there’s a lot of sieving, pasta-rolling, and a polenta recipe that asks you to stir for an hour. (Obviously instant polenta is considered cheating.)

Each recipe has a chatty introduction, with comments on the key ingredients or suggesting variations. The step-by-step instructions are also conversational and clear, although it might have been helpful to include an indication of prep time and cooking time for each one. And most of these are not one-pot dishes; there’s a lot of “meanwhile….”, so you’ll often have several pots on the go.

The book starts with a quick education in truffles – what they are, how they’re grown and harvested and how to buy them. Dunn has consulted a number of truffle growers to inform this section and drops a few names that people in the industry will recognise.

Unfortunately, despite this, some errors have slipped through. Those who know their truffles will sneer when they read that, in the case of black truffle (tuber melanosporum), “the truffle should be jet-black with white mycelium”.  Rodney, the mycelium is the truffle’s underground network of fine white filaments called hyphae that reach out into the soil. You don’t find them inside the part we eat, which is the fruiting body of the fungus, those are white sterile veins”.

The “cooking with truffles” section also omits a few important bits of information. For example, while “heat and acid” may release the truffle flavour, too much of either will destroy it. You should generally be thinking warmth rather than heat, which is why in many dishes truffle is added at the end of the process. Don’t try frying a truffle, OK?

The other thing you need to know is how much truffle to use. Truffles are expensive, so it’s tempting to skimp. Ultimately, though, this is wasteful – if you don’t use enough for the taste to come through you might as well leave it out altogether. Generally it’s recommended that you allow three to five grams per person for an entrée dish and closer to ten grams per person for a main course. Perhaps this isn’t an issue if you’re simply following Dunn’s recipes, but it’s handy information if you’re going to start improvising.

The recipes in The Truffle Cookbook have been photographed by a chef-turned-photographer, Luke Burgess, who cooked with the author at Tetsuya’s back in the day. It’s Australia’s first proper truffle cookbook and is a worthy addition to the shelf, whether you’re a truffle newbie or looking for more exotic ways to enjoy this mysterious and magical treat. It’s due for release on 30 May 2016 – you can order from Booktopia (and save $15 or so on the recommended retail price).”

The Truffle Cookbook is published under Penguin’s Lantern imprint – Hardbound 176 pages, RRP $59.99

Successful truffle growing in Spain (Video)

Written by : Posted on April 28, 2016 : Comments Off on Successful truffle growing in Spain (Video)

This video is part of a series that is available in the Members area of this site. It was part of the Barcelona Truffle Tour that Jan O’Connell and I took with some other Australian growers in January this year. We were taken to visit two very successful growers in Teruel in Spain. There is some reinforcement of concepts that are presented in the lecture videos but I felt it was of wider interest to all growers and prospective growers so Marcos has allowed us to include the video here.
Emilio Peréz showed us around the truffiére, which is now managed by his son Miguel. There are some gaps and off camera moments in audio but I didn’t want to add a ‘travelogue’ music track. Marcos Morcillo has a lot of experience he offers in this video, and he generously shares his information with the world on his English language blog. We announced his latest book here.

Fred Harden <thinktag>

First truffles but late season start?

Written by : Posted on April 17, 2016 : Comments Off on First truffles but late season start?

ATGA committee member Stuart Dunbar from Yarra Valley Truffles commented in an email this week.

“The Victorian season is looking to be later than normal.
We don’t have much data to track it on, but I think I track it closer than most.  Real ripening indications won’t be known until June, with the most likely criteria being how much cold weather we get. Although last year’s substantially early cold didn’t alter things much.  The fireplace was running hot this time last year and I was drying Birch Boletes, it currently remains unlit.

Truffle surface signs ran 2-3weeks late compared with previous years data on truffle eruption dates.

Currently rampant, and still catching up protecting end of Feb flush six weeks later, full time, so Great Season… but.
The grape vine’s over the creek were done and dusted several weeks earlier than normal.  I believe the European adage is good for truffles, bad for grapes and vice versa.
I can also state outright, warm winter weather kills truffles.

Pray to truffle dog’s for cold weather.”


The principles of truffle growing – Marcos Morcillo

Written by : Posted on April 17, 2016 : No Comments

This is the first of the lectures (it preceded the videos in the previous two posts) presented as part of the 2016 Barcelona Truffle Tour. Here Marcos presents successful examples of truffle growing in Catalonia and Spain, and refers to the research that is taking place at the Catalan government Research Institute of Agronomic Technology  – IRTA . The video runs for just over an hour and is recommended viewing for all growers. There is some ‘translation’ required for seasons in our hemisphere, and the fact that there is natural limestone soil in Spain. The huge plantations that were started with EU funding are also very different to many of our growers here so there are some differences in scale when considering costs.


You’ll need to watch in as high quality as your connection will allow to see the details on the graphics.
The importance of the slide below will become painfully clear as you listen to the explanation of why your trees may have a good brulè and never grow truffles (unless you do something about it soon).

Fred Harden

Who wants your truffles (overseas)?

Written by : Posted on April 15, 2016 : No Comments

Maybe you’ve worked out where you will sell all your truffles (or when you get them) in Australia. Have you thought what the demand will be in, say 2020? Most of our growers realise that our local market is not going to be big enough and are looking for overseas sales to make their truffières viable. Marcos Morcillo and his company Micologia Forestal and Applicada have, and he presented his latest assessment of the future at the Barcelona Truffle Tour in January we attended this year. Here is another ‘back of the room’ video notes from the lectures (see his ‘Paradigm shifts in truffle growing’  lecture video here). The Australians contributed actively to this discussion.


This chart is from “Truffle Farming Today, a Comprehensive World Guide” Marcos Morcillo, Monica Sanchez and Xavier Vilanova. Marcos talks about it in the video above.

Fred Harden.

This will change how you grow truffles (video)

Written by : Posted on April 14, 2016 : 1 Comment

Still0414_00000My wife Jan and I (as Thinktag Creative), were part of a group of Australian growers who attended Marcos Morcillo’s Barcelona Truffle Tour in late January this year. You can read about it here. The first days of the tour consisted of half day lectures and I attempted to record these from the back of the room. Marcos has generously agreed to share these with Australian growers and I’ll add them to the website as I finish them. They’re all about 50 mins long, and have shaky camera bits, heads in frame and audio level differences. If you can ignore the couple of Bulgarian growers in the foreground who were rudely disinterested, you should find Marcos’ summary here of what changes we will need to consider based on their research, upsetting. Disruptive is the approved word.

The other lectures explain many of the points further but the research that shows the accepted model of tree and truffle in symbiosis is closer to that of the truffle being parasitic, that there’s a need for ensuring two mating types are in each brulé for the ongoing life of your orchard, that you should change how you do your weed management, that you can lime less. They are are just some of those disruptions. And this video includes an assessment of the future world truffle market that will change your financial modelling (and plans for small crop viability).

Get a cup of tea or coffee, sit back and pay attention. I get a Hitchcock walk on moment as I turn off the light at the start of the video.

Fred Harden.



2016 Spanish Truffle Tour report

Written by : Posted on March 20, 2016 : No Comments

I’ve been playing with this Adobe online presentation format for a while and decided to use it for my notes from the trip that Jan and I did to Marcos Morcillo’s truffle tour in late January. I have a lot of video I’m editing but this includes a couple of short pieces of that video as a test.  Member comments are welcome in the standard blog format below.
It’s best watched full screen, (just click on it, double click to get back to the two pages, use Esc key to close full screen window.) and you can also download a printable PDF copy (minus the video’s) from the menu at the bottom.
If you’re on an iPad, or having troubles etc, this link has a version that may work better.

Fred Harden.

West Australian Growers Guide

Written by : Posted on February 10, 2016 : Comments Off on West Australian Growers Guide

WAtruffleGuide_homepageThrough the careful work of  authors ATGA member Anne Mitchell and Alison Mathews we now have a great introduction to growing black truffles, not just in WA but with information applicable to the eastern States. I encourage you to visit the site.

Cultivation of black truffles in Western Australia.

Pests and diseases of truffles and their host trees,

Truffle orchard on farm hygiene.