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Truffles are considered one of the finest culinary delicacies around, and Australian truffles are among the best in the world! But what are these unusual fungi? Why are they so exclusive and expensive? And how do you know where to find truffles in Australia?
We have taken a closer look, to help you discover everything you need to know about these fine ingredients, including the booming market for truffles in Victoria, to add an extra-exclusive element to your visit.
What are truffles and why are they such a delicacy?
Truffles are a type of fungi which grow underground in woodland areas with heavily calciferous soil. They have a particularly strong smell, which is why specially trained pigs and dogs are used to discover their location by scent, before the truffles can be dug up by the truffle hunter. Some breeds of dogs are particularly good at sniffing out truffles – Border Collies, Labradors and Springer Spaniels are known for their skills in this area, and are often used on truffle hunts. However, truffles were traditionally located by pigs, which also have an exceptional sense of smell, and can sniff out a truffle located as far as a metre below ground.
The strong smell associated with truffles is produced by the interaction of the fungi with the soil and the plants which grow in the surrounding area. The scent, flavour and texture of truffles are the reasons why these unusual-looking fungi are considered such a culinary delicacy. They add a unique taste to a wide variety of dishes, but they are divisive, as not everybody finds truffles to their taste, and some people find their appearance off-putting. However, as they are highly sought after, truffles command a high price all over the world, and are often found on the menus of exclusive restaurants.
Truffles are also used to make a number of other cooking ingredients, including truffle oil, truffle honey and truffle mayonnaise, all of which are becoming more and more popular in Australia thanks to companies such as Great Southern Truffles, who produce an extensive range of food products using truffles as the main ingredient.
These days, more and more people are discovering truffles in Australia, and in areas where they grow, such as rural Victoria, they are served alongside other locally-produced ingredients at many eateries.
Are there different types of truffles and where do they grow?
Truffles grow in many different parts of the world, and there have been as many as seven different types discovered. The most common of these are black truffles, but white truffles and burgundy truffles are also popular species. The price of a truffle increases depending on how rare the species is.
The growing of truffles is usually associated with European countries, particularly France and Italy. Historical records show that they were a popular delicacy in Europe at the time of the Renaissance, and were widely eaten in France during the 17th and 18th centuries, but in more recent times, truffles have been found in many other parts of the world, including the USA and Asia. In addition, there are now a number of farms growing truffles in Australia. Most of these are concentrated in Victoria, where the conditions are ideal, thanks to the highly calciferous soil and cultivated woodlands.
Because of this, many visitors to the region now want to know where to find truffles in Victoria, and truffle hunting in Melbourne and surrounding areas has become a popular and enjoyable pastime for Australians and overseas visitors alike.
How to find truffles in Australia
If you want the best chance of finding truffles in Australia, regional Victoria is the place to head. This region boasts some of the best truffle orchards, known as truffieres, in the world, as the conditions are ideal for cultivating fertile woodlands where truffles can easily grow. The Yarra Valley and Mornington Peninsula are popular locations for truffle hunters, as are the Goldfields, the High Country, the Great Ocean Road and Otway.
Of course, truffle hunting is a lot of fun in itself, but it also has some other benefits. The areas where truffles are found offer some of the most beautiful scenery in Australia, so walking through forests and farmlands gives you the ideal opportunity to take in the breathtaking sights. It also provides you with the perfect excuse to get outdoors and enjoy some fresh air and exercise during the winter months, as truffle season runs from late May through to August. There’s nothing better than wrapping up in some warm clothes and setting out on a truffle hunting adventure!
Visiting a truffle farm in Victoria gives you an ideal introduction to the world of truffles, and there are a number of places here where you can enjoy this experience.
1. Wongarra Farm
Wongarra Farm, in Otway, close to the Great Ocean Road, is home to one of Victoria’s oldest truffieres, the Otway Harvest truffle farm. It produces Perigord black truffles, a type of truffle which is particularly sought-after. The truffles are sold at many local markets, and the farm is also widely recognised for the quality of its pork, beef and dairy produce.
Truffle hunts are organised at the farm on various dates throughout the season, and this beautiful location is hugely popular with visitors who enjoy stunning surroundings as well as those who want to hunt for truffles.
2. Red Hill Truffles
Red Hill Truffles offers an immersive truffle experience on the beautiful Mornington Peninsula. You can explore the truffle orchard and hunt for truffles with Thomas, the resident truffle-hunting Springer Spaniel, while owner Jenny explains the history of the farm and the black truffles which grow there. You also have the opportunity to purchase your own truffle from the hunt.
3. Truffle Treasures
Truffle Treasures is a dedicated truffiere in the Daylesford region of Victoria, and hosts a variety of truffle-themed events throughout the season. Truffle hunts take place regularly with the farm’s truffle dogs Abbie and Holly, followed by a meal onsite where you can sample the truffles for yourself. Truffle Treasures also hosts cooking classes where you can learn more about these culinary delicacies and the many ways they can be used in cooking.
4. Black Cat Truffles
Black Cat Truffles features a 1,000-tree truffle orchard in the grounds of a beautiful cottage in the Central Highlands region. During truffle season, dogs Ella and Harry lead you on a truffle hunt among the trees. Following this, you can visit the onsite tasting rooms to try the truffles. You can also participate in regular truffle cooking classes led by talented local chefs.
Celebrate the truffle at Truffle Festival Melbourne
Truffles are so popular in Victoria that the state is home to the world’s biggest truffle festival. Held every year at the Queen Victoria Market, the Melbourne truffle festival attracts more than 40,000 people and is dedicated to all things truffle-related.
There are numerous truffles and truffle-based products to buy, along with truffle cooking demonstrations from top chefs, and even appearances from some of Victoria’s most popular and talented truffle dogs. You can also visit the bar, which serves a variety of truffle-based alcoholic beverages. With a great atmosphere, the Truffle Festival Melbourne is an unmissable event for truffle fans everywhere.
Enjoy your own private truffle hunting event
Truffles are synonymous with luxury, and now you can immerse yourself in the ultimate exclusive experience – a private truffle hunt just for you and your travelling companions. When you book a tour with Melbourne Private Tours, you have the option of adding a truffle hunting experience to your package on request, during truffle season between May and August.
You will be collected from Melbourne in a luxurious, air-conditioned vehicle and taken to a dedicated truffiere in regional Victoria, enabling you to enjoy the beautiful scenery in comfort. You can then take part in an exclusive truffle hunt with your party, giving you the opportunity to learn more about these fascinating fungi and have fun searching for them alongside trained truffle dogs. You will then be able to enjoy a meal which will contain truffles, so you can sample them for yourselves and discover exactly why they are seen as such a delicacy – and they taste even better when served with fresh local produce and one of the many excellent wines produced in this region!
For those who are interested in expanding their culinary skills, we can also arrange for you to take part in a truffle cooking class, enabling you to learn how to cook truffles and which dishes they enhance.
At the end of the experience, we will drive you back to Melbourne, giving you the chance to relax and unwind on the road, and providing you with a truly luxurious and highly memorable day.
The truffle hunting package is only available on request as an add-on to our other tours, so it is important to book early and make sure you are visiting in truffle season. If you would like more information about our truffle experience or any of our other tours, please contact us, and our team will be happy to accommodate your requirements.