Pre-Season Truffles 2012, early ripening.

I’ve had a few enticing smells on located surface truffles since mid March 2012, which all later resulted a spoiled truffle that never quite got there. Now, at start of May, I’ve some more positive signs, confirming a suspicion I had last year regarding ripening before the proper season has arrived.

Last year while pruning hazelnut trees, 16th May, 2011, I pulled out a clump of grass, and my daughter and I got a momentary whiff of truffle, but we were unable to locate it, and weren’t even sure it was a proper truffle smell until we experienced them fully during our first harvest in July.

Partly ripe, insect attacked trufflePreviously discovered in April 2012 something has disturbed the soil cover (mouse?) and it had been attacked by slaters, then the ever present grey bugs.  Damage seems to trigger ripening, and its been exposed to a week of 4-5 celsius nights.  The colour is partly developed, as is the aroma profile, although it remains to be seen if it ripens fully. The photo shows where i’ve removed the top of the slater entry holes, and clearly demonstrates the moist area damage caused by the grey bugs, a few raindrops worth of water are not helping.  The developing color is not black yet, but on its way, and I  estimate the smell to be about 1 week from properly ripe (IF it gets there)

There are five truffles in the same location, at the pen point is a strangely dead one, akin to the wood inside a dry rotted log.  The truffle at top right needs to also be checked, the tiny cut shows a similar ripening, but it has rot or something on the lower right side near the strange one. The other two are deeper, firm and odorless (as they should be at this time of year).  If the damage to the upper two had continued undiscovered I am certain they would have spoiled the lower two at a later stage. Indeed I suspected contagion in a few cases of rot last year.

Here’s another truffle that has received damage and commenced rotting. 75grams has been sliced off the top revealing the damage, and remaining healthy tissue. closeup photo Upper left is an undamaged, unripe lobe showing the proper color, veining is visible, also on the lower portion of the sliced area. At the knife point and one other spot is ripening color. At the pen is another small undamaged truffle.

I have successfully prevented spread of rot/damage on two truffles of this size (>150g) by removing the unhealthy tissue. This one will likely need more slices taken. The interior of a live truffle can skin over and seal (like a cut lemon), I saw it often last year in slater damaged holes on mature truffles (but only if the grey bugs stay away).  It’s yet to be seen if the rescued truffles mature properly, and what quality… at least they may suit my own table, saving some others for sale.  This experimentation is increasing my understanding of the ripening process which translates into better harvesting skills, and possible areas of research later.

A warm spell seems to arrest ripening, as evidenced by the sudden stop to the season at start of August 2011, when there was 4 days of very warm weather.  According to Georgie Patterson of Australian Truffle Dogs, noone found ripe truffles after this time.  I was monitoring a single located truffle at that time and expected it to ripen fully within a week, instead the smell faded away having never reached that enticing level we all love.  I suspect the same has happend to a few of this season’s located truffles, triggered into early ripening by damage or cold, then warm weather interrupting the process.  It makes sense that some will mature too early or late to develop fully. Similar to plant seeds which germinate outside the average timeframe, there may be some advantage in nature during strange seasons.