Truffles are round, warty, irregular in shape and vary from the size of a walnut to that of a fist. They grow on tree roots which have been infected with truffle spores and their scent is such that dogs and pigs are trained to sniff them out. Since Greek and Roman times the pungent fungi have been used as delicacies, aphrodisiacs and medicines. The black French truffle is from the Périgord region and is used in making pâté de foie gras, while the odorous white truffle is from Italy's Piedmont district.
The amount of truffles growing naturally under oak, poplar, willow and hazelnut trees in Europe is dramatically reducing, so now they're cultivated in truffle orchards or trufferie. Spain has begun production and outside of Europe, oak trees were inoculated in 1991 in the American state of Oregon. There are now substantial plantings across the United States.
In Western Australia, the Wine & Truffle Company began the cultivation of truffles in 1997 at Hazel Hill Estate near Manjimup in the south west of the state. This area was selected because the climatic and soil factors are similar to truffle-producing areas in France and New Zealand. Over 13,000 hazelnut trees were planted, making this the largest mainland trufferie in Australia.
The seven-year-old tree roots are all well infected with the black truffle fungus filaments and intensive ongoing research on factors affecting truffle production is being conducted by Dr Nicholas Malajczuk, the company's truffle consultant, and his students from Murdoch University in Perth.
Errol, the golden Labrador, is a star truffle sniffer. Earlier this year he came across one weighing one kilogram, the largest ever found outside of France. It was worth $3000.
The Wine & Truffle Company also produces red, white and pink wines and visitors are welcome to taste the range and to learn about the mysteries of truffles at the beautiful property.