That cheeky grin. Those mischievous eyes. Meeting television personality and chef Manu Feildel on the main stage at Truffle Melbourne was one of many highlights for me this truffle season.
Holding a 500 gram truffle at Truffle Kerfuffle in the South West of Western Australia was also up there in my top 10 exciting moments.
Australia is tipped to be the largest producing country of truffles within the decade. The largest truffle ever grown in Australia, a 1.172 kilogram French black Périgord, was unearthed in the New South Wales Southern Highlands at the start of July, falling just short of the world record.
This earthy, vegemite-tasting gourmet mushroom, otherwise known as a “diamond of cookery”, “fairy apple”, “black queen”, “fragrant nugget” or “black gold”, is worth about $2,000 a kilogram. Put that into perspective though and three to four grams will only cost you $6 to $8.
Truffles are a cross between a fungus and a tuber, which are believed to have started growing underground to beat forest fires, drought and severe cold. Truffles grow in harmony with a host tree (normally an oak or hazelnut), enabling the tree to take in phosphorus while in return the truffle receives sugars enabling it to grow.
Pigs, trained dogs and goats are used to sniff out truffles, which produce a chemical almost identical to a sex pheromone found in the saliva of male pigs. Interestingly, men secrete the same chemical in their underarm sweat!!
The question I get asked most frequently about truffles is “are they good for you?”
Truffles are used more as a flavour enhancer to a dish rather than the main ingredient, so their nutritional value tends to get overlooked. However did you know that truffles are high in protein, low in fat and free of cholesterol? It must be taken into consideration though, that despite having no cholesterol and a low fat content, truffles are normally cooked in dishes rich in oil, butter and cheese that are not so good for us…
My ideal truffle salad is a hearty warm winter concoction to allow the truffle flavours to infuse. Try the delicious ‘Jerusalem artichoke-spinach salad with witlof, truffle and Parmesan cheese’ posted by Rossio on the Love My Salad website.
Join Louise on a journey through the seasons with salad ingredients, old traditions and popular, exotic or unusual vegetables. From Paddock to Plate founder, author, food writer, radio journalist & yoga teacher.