Digging for aromatic black truffles on a crisp winter day sparks all your senses.
The rich, fertile soils and cool climate of Tasmania’s north west make it a veritable food bowl. During the Off Season, while many crops lie dormant, Anna Terry and her dogs hunt for hidden treasure in the frosty earth among the 5000-odd trees of the Truffle Farm.
As a second-generation truffle farmer, Terry has been truffling for as long as she can remember. Despite this (or perhaps because of it) she still can’t get enough of them.
The unusual fungi scent of a freshly dug winter truffle is difficult to describe.
When you are unearthing one in the dirt, you pick up this sweetness in the soil… It's very pungent. It's very intense.
The Truffle Farm harvests both summer and winter truffles, and runs hunting tours year-round – but in the cooler months, Terry treats guests to an authentic experience that closely mirrors her own life on the farm.
I think what's special about winter in Tasmania that's different to anywhere else in Australia is that our seasons are so true.
On 'winter warmer' truffle hunting tours, guests forage and hunt for truffles among the frosty groves of trees, before retiring by a firepit with a hot drink and a cheesy pizza loaded with aromatic fresh black truffle.
Growing truffles is no easy feat. These enigmatic fungi develop beneath trees inoculated with truffle spores and the conditions need to be just right. It takes years for a tree to produce truffles – and there are no guarantees.
“They are so particular in the type of soil they like, the pH, aeration, climate, sunlight, water – all those stars need to align,” Terry says. “So it really is quite a miracle when they happen.”
Alongside their delicate flavours favoured by chefs and foodies, the scarcity and the manual labour that goes into growing and finding truffles elevates them to luxury status.
And then there are the dogs. Truffles are completely hidden beneath the surface and are dug up by hand, using specially trained canines to sniff them out.
“Without the dogs, we actually can't find the truffles,” Terry says. “They’re pets, as well as work dogs, as well as colleagues… It's a pretty special bond.”
So what is it that sets Tasmanian truffles apart?
A lot of chefs believe that the Tasmanian truffle has a sweetness to it that truffles across the rest of the country don't.
She puts this intensity of flavour down to slow growth and cool climate. Tasmania sits on a similar latitude to Provence, France, in the northern hemisphere – an area also renowned for growing beautiful truffles.
When asked about her favourite truffle-inspired recipes, Terry has three staunch favourites: truffle scrambled eggs, truffle mashed potato and truffle pasta.
“When I smell truffles, I just feel at home,” she says. “It's my calm, it's my happy place.”
Bite into one of Terry’s truffle-infused pizzas by the crackling fire and you’ll quickly understand why.
Buzzing with bees
High in the hills of scenic southern Tasmania, Lisa Britzman keeps a hive of happy bees at her boutique farm Campo de Flori. In wintertime, snow dusts the olive trees and the air grows misty. It's during this season that Britzman offers a rare glimpse into the secret lives of bees.Read more
Meet our seasoned Off Seasoners – artists, hikers, makers and musos – and open the door to winter with a sassy spin. The Off Season Community is your personal invitation to embrace the cooler weather, banish the winter doldrums and fall asleep with a satisfied grin.Come on in