“It’s the mystery,” confides Anna Terry, with a hint of awe in her voice. “You never know what you’re going to stumble across and every day is different.”
Terry is a treasure hunter. Rather than fossicking for precious stones or artefacts, she and her crack canine team search for truffles, the rare fungus prized by chefs and gourmands around the globe.
“You could find a truffle the size of a golf ball, or you might find one the size of the dog’s head,” she says. Fine truffles sell for $3000 or more per kilo, but that’s not the only attraction. “It’s very wholesome digging about in the dirt,” Terry says, “and that makes me very at peace.”
Truffles were introduced to Australia in 1993 by Duncan Garvey, of Perigord Truffles of Tasmania. He imported spores from France and harvested Australia’s first truffle in his Huon Valley trufferie in 1999. The island’s industry now supplies restaurants and truffle lovers around the world.
Northern Tasmania is known for its high-quality black truffles. A number of growers tend trufferies and a few - including the Terry family’s The Truffle Farm near Deloraine - give travellers the chance to experience the thrill of the hunt.
Truffles have a symbiotic relationship with certain trees, in particular hazelnut and oak trees, like those at The Truffle Farm, and grow in the earth at the base of the tree.
Terry and her three dogs – including puppy Peggy, who’s in training - lead guests around the farm and into the trufferie. During a tour, guests meet the dogs, join a hunt, and taste truffle-infused products or enjoy lunch or a Tasmanian gin around an open fire.
Terry works with Doug the Labrador and two Labradoodles, Poppy and Peggy. “It’s personality rather than breed” that make a truffle dog, she says.
It takes about two-and-a-half years to really train a dog. I need them to be focused and reliable.
How’s the pup shaping up? “Peggy is showing good instincts,” Terry says, “but she still gets easily distracted.”
The Truffle Farm has both winter and summer truffle harvests, so it’s open most of the year (December to September). Stop by the farm-gate shop for fresh truffles in season and boutique truffle products.
The Truffledore, in nearby Lower Barrington, also offers truffle tours and lunches during winter, and has farm stays for travellers – don’t miss truffled omelettes for breakfast.
Can’t join the dogs? Follow your nose at farmers’ markets for the intoxicating perfume of fresh Tasmanian truffles in season, and infused foods including cheeses, butter and honey year-round.