News and Events
Another video (12 mins) from the Barcelona Truffle Tour, about another buyer we visited , Conservas Coll from just outside Barcelona.
As we arrived there was a local truffle hunter selling his plastic shopping bag of wild truffle, 200 grams with dirt on, and he was paid EUR 300. This lead nicely into a discussion of grading the various varieties, often melanosporum, aestivum and brumale (there’s a lot of brumale) and the prices they get. Marcos says that the year on year average price is EUR 420, that’s $650 a kilo. The charts in the recent Laumont post show that the price can rise to EUR 650 ($1000 AUD) with seasonal demand. We then walked to a nearby wild area where truffles had been found up to two years ago but no longer (in spite of expanding brûlés).
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?
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.
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.
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.
“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
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>
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.”
Through 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.
The first newsletter of the project Pests and diseases of truffles and their host trees in Australia, is online. The project is running from 29 May 2015 to 10 Jan 2019. Their Newsletter is a biannual update of project activities and will be produced in December and June each year of the project. Here’s a link to December 2015.
The Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia is the lead agency in conducting this project and involves a team based in WA and eastern Australia.
You are able to send pest and disease enquiries and observations to the project team via the MyPestGuide-Reporter app. For more information on the app please refer to the article in the December 2015 newsletter, and the DAFWA website. You can also create pest and disease reports online through the DAFWA website rather than download the app. Please note that there are several MyPestGuide apps, for truffles you will need to download the Reporter app and once in the app select ‘truffle survey’ from the drop down menu each time you send a report.
Dr. Victoria Ludowici sent us these weeks ago, sorry about the delay in posting here.
“I have attached the three factsheets, on the truffle industry’s high priority pests, that we brought along (which can be found at our website- www.planthealthaustralia.com.au).”
There are also fact sheets available on the truffle industry’s other high priority pests and diseases as listed below:
Unfortunately there is no factsheet on hazelnut rust.
I would also suggest that your members visit the Farm Biosecurity website where you can find:
Videos for implementing biosecurity on your farm
Thank you Victoria.
This email was sent from Dr Peter Stahle to all
past and current members of the Australian Truffle Growers Association
on Thursday January 14 2016.
Dear Truffle Growers
I am writing to you regarding two projects the ATGA is supporting, which are of substantial benefit to the entire industry, and requesting your involvement, either through active participation or simply by helping to identify truffières for a national database. Thanks to all the truffle growers in Western Australia who have already helped with the Pests and Diseases Project.
1. Pests and Diseases of Truffles Project
The ATGA is strongly supporting the “Pests and Diseases of Truffles” project, to identify existing threats within Australia. The project needs to gather a comprehensive list of current pest and disease issues and potential management techniques from as many industry participants as possible. This needs input from all truffières, particularly those in the Eastern states where the greatest number of growers exist.
How you can participate in the Pests and Diseases Project
Alan Davey, a Member of the ATGA, who has been working with and on behalf of the industry for several years, is coordinating communication between the Pests and Diseases project and truffière owners in the eastern states. Unless you request otherwise, Alan or one of the project team will contact you by phone or email to collect information essential for this project and the Biosecurity Plan. If you do NOT wish to be contacted, you will need to email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject heading “NO PROJECT CONTACT PLEASE” by next Monday 18/1/16.
2. Truffle Biosecurity Plan
The ATGA has worked with Plant Health Australia (PHA) to develop a Truffle Biosecurity Plan to deal with any potential outbreaks that may affect truffières. The focus of this is exotic pests and diseases, not currently in Australia, which are known to affect host trees or truffles directly. For the plan to be successfully implemented, it will be imperative to know where truffières are located throughout Australia, so in the event of an outbreak the location of potentially affected sites can be readily identified for participation in a PHA and industry coordinated response. Members of the ATGA will be eligible for Federal and State Government assistance dealing with the outbreak, and in the worst case scenarios qualify for compensation.
Eg. The chestnut industry was recently affected by an outbreak of chestnut blight which required the destruction of a number of trees and orchards to deal with the threat. Fortunately the outbreak was contained, and due to there being a PHA and industry endorsed Biosecurity Plan, state government agencies were mobilized to help with the response and affected growers received compensation for their losses.
Truffières of non-Members
To ensure this industry information is as comprehensive as possible we need to know of the truffières of non-Members. If you know of any truffière owners in your region who are not ATGA members, past or current, please inform them of these projects and this email. Encourage them to participate. If you are no longer involved in the truffière, please pass this to the current owners.
Please fill in the information below and send to the ATGA at email@example.com. As the project is operating on a deadline (government funding is contingent on meeting project milestones) we would encourage you to provide this information as soon as possible (ideally by 22 January, but if this isn’t achievable, as soon as you can).
Information required for truffières of non-Members:
• Location and Farm Name if applicable
• Nearest Town
• Owner or Manager
• Contact Phone (if available)
• Contact email (if available)
• Approximate size, or number of trees
Dr Peter Stahle
- How hot?
- 2017 ATGA Members Pests and Diseases Roadshow
- June Newsletter online
- NSW ATGA Members Grading workshop
- Great Southern Truffles Services for 2017
- Plant Health Australia Photo Competition
- Shock for importer of Tuber magnatum into Western Australia.
- Conference highlights – a captain’s pick
- RIRDC Truffle Pest & Disease Newsletter #2
- Farm Biosecurity newsletter September 2016