Truffle hunts, foot traffic and biosecurity.

Competing fungi and heavy feet are two major risks to maturing truffles;

Biosecurity

Many agribusinesses require visitors to utilise some form of biosecurity to protect their business and investment.  This varies according to the type of industry from simple footbaths, to full clothed protection for smokers (eg .tobacco leaf virus can destroy tomatoes in greenhouses)

For our truffiere, besides insect pests, there are other fungi that also like to form symbiotic relationships with trees. ECM (ectomycorhizal) fungi compete with truffles for space on the new root tips, and in some cases can totally displace truffle from a tree. Some of our trees were contaminated with these fungi before delivery, with fairy rings of mushrooms growing out from the trees since early years.

Ecm fungi on tree

Ecm fungi on tree

This affects around 15% of trees in our truffiere and it is likely we will need to remove and destroy many of the affected trees. Here the tree in the foreground has no signs of truffle at all, but is entirely circled with ECM fungi spreading outwards. Near the dogs is an actively producing tree, with a nice truffle brule around it, the roots from the infected tree will soon reach the brule with unknown consequences.

Current insects that attack near surface truffles ( less than 1” deep) are; snails, slugs, centipedes, slaters (especially the hard shelled “butchy boys”), springtails (1mm grey bug) and finally the occasional mushroom fly. Management of these is limited to controlling the physical environment, such as leaf litter, and locating at risk truffle early enough to cover with extra soil. We don’t believe chemical controls are acceptable with such a deliciate symbiosis between truffle and tree, nor for a gourmet product.
The last thing we need is other insects, so its important that our guests use footbaths and ensure there is no loose soil on their footwear.

There are various other insects and fungi known to cause problems elsewhere in Australian truffiéres, so each area has its own problems, and we need to do our best to keep our problems local.

Foot Traffic

Here a large truffle has been stepped upon, or hit by a wheel during Autumn slashing during the past week 15/5/14. It was a surface truffle, ~300grams, substantially exposed to Broken-surface-trufflerisk from feet and insects, the pressure has cracked it open, exposing the interior and it has rotted.
This happened despite best efforts to keep our traffic away from high risk regions around known producing trees. This truffle was on a new tree and an unexpected 150 cm from the tree, which is unusual as first truffles generally appear next to the trunk.

What can we do?
Please follow any requests of truffle, wine growers etc. regarding footwear and other precautions, and only walk where instructed while on farm, this  partially reduces the risks to the grower. Utilise any provided disinfectant baths both entering and exiting the property.

All dog owners should know…

The other day Bear choked on a piece of meat, I found him only a minute or two later, unconscious, unbreathing.  Fortunately I managed to remove the piece of meat, and get him breathing again.

I wished I had read something about first aid for dogs, as I was missing some basic ideas on how to proceed.  The only dog related health check I knew was pressing the gum, and colour should return in 2 seconds, indicating healthy heart/oxygen supply.

Despite having done human first aid training, I was at a loss as to the best way to go about it for a dog, and no idea how to even tell if he had a pulse, let alone mouth to nose, or CPR. I would have felt more confident had I known the information linked below, and had I not fortunately met with success, I would have been able to persist for longer with proper method assured it was the correct thing to do.

Choking is apparently the most likely emergency requiring resuscitation, Therefore I urge any dog owner to read the following;

http://www.wikihow.com/Perform-CPR-on-a-Dog

http://www.wikihow.com/Save-a-Choking-Dog

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2014 preparation underway

Truffle push

Truffle push

The 2014 season is looking great!  Recent pruning work in the truffiére has found a significant number of newly producing trees.  Some have had long existing brulé yet no truffles until now.  These have already revealed themselves, although current focus is on pruning, yet to come is the tending of the ground around the trees which typically discloses many truffles to an experienced eye.

 

Bear-&-Lani

Bear introducing Lani to the truffiére (and hazelnuts)

Assisting this effort has been the delightful company of our truffle dog trainee, Lani.  She is an Italian dog breed, Lagotto Romagnolo, which roughly translates as a “Lake dog from the Romagna region”, where they were traditionally used as water retrievers, and more recently as truffle dogs.
She is a highly energetic dog, on the go (hunting) all day long and not dissuaded in the least by wet weather.  Hopefully we can redirect this drive into finding truffles, with the willingness to work in wet weather definitely being beneficial to our July/August harvest season.

Current training sees her already walking without a lead out front by several metres, returning to heel at command.  This will be quite useful in avoiding lead entanglements in trees.  Next will be some scent location on command exercises.

Truffle Hunt 2013 with Chateau Yering

EDIT: Info on 2014 hunts on main site, http://www.yarravalleytruffles.com.au/truffle_hunt.html

The hunt in conjunction with Chateau Yering was conducted with two separate groups. We were fortunate the rain held off until after the last bus left.

700g Victorian Truffle

700g Victorian Truffle

Both groups found a nice truffle, but the random nature of truffle harvesting was amply demonstrated by the day’s/year’s best truffle being unearthed after the final bus left! If only we’d gone to that tree first! http://youtu.be/Z8O5qpriioU

After covering the basics on truffiere establishment, truffle life cycle, and a few questions, each group got to experience first hand the aroma arising from the soil around a ripe truffle.

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Iceberg truffle!

Found this beauty under an oak tree, the perfume in the soil was superb and from the top I thought I’d found a truffle of around 200grams.  However it kept emerging from the soil like an iceberg, most of it was still well under ground, it weighed in at a massive 554grams!

This truffle found a home with Grossi Florentino in Melbourne.

Chicken breast demi Deuil, Creamy Truffle Sauce.

After a superb Fringe Food Festival dinner at Chateau Yering’s Eleonore’s Restaurant last night I felt inspired to attempt something extravagant. I was quite pleased with the results, a chicken breast cooked with truffle slices under the skin, after the Poulet demi Deuil style, a Creamy Perigord Truffle Sauce, and some cous cous to mop up the sauce.  The recipe said the sauce serves four, and it went onto three plates, I also suspect it would have looked more balanced on up to ten plates. Continue reading

Some of the good surface truffles

I’ve noticed that the focus of these blogs to date has been on the issues affecting the production of good truffles, bugs, damage etc. A summation of some of the good ones, and successful soil covered rescues seems in order.  So on today’s hunt I took the camera along, and since it has been raining already (a little extra water wont hurt), a squirt bottle to clean the tops of a few of the known ones for some photos.

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