A very brief history of truffle finding
Finding truffles with flies
Did you know that in Europe, truffle hunting can be a real fly-by-night operation? That's right, because the mouche (March) fly has a real taste for ripe truffles and uses them as a nursery for its larvae. Now, there are plenty of other flies in Europe that also think truffles are the bee's knees, but only the mouche fly is worth its weight in gold for truffle hunters.
Those other fly species? Well, they're about as useful as a chocolate teapot if you're looking to find those tasty truffles because they lay their eggs in immature or even rotten truffles.
Sadly for us here in Australia we don’t have any mouche flies.
But it really is a thing in Europe, the video below takes you through the process.
Finding truffles with sticks
Aboriginal people’s secret weapon for finding Australian truffles were sticks. As we know from our previous post on Australian truffles, our local varieties release distinct aromas that can be detected in the air. In the bush, the smells of peanut butter or bubble gum, petrol, rotting onions, freshly laid road tar, or even dog poo without other reasonable explanations all indicate truffle near by. And once the truffle-scented spot is located , out would come the trusty stick to start poking and sniffing the ground for those treasures!
How ingenious it that? No need for dogs, hogs or flies.
Finding truffles with Pigs.
Pigs and truffles – a match made in gastronomic heaven? As truffle farmers, we're often asked whether we use these snuffling swine to unearth our prized gourmet delicacies.
While truffles have been enjoyed by humans for thousands of years, with the earliest recorded history of their use dating back to Sumerian King Zimri-Lim in 1760 BCE, the origins of the pig-truffle connection are shrouded in mystery. It is believed however, that swine herders in northern Europe or perhaps even Egypt or Turkey were the first to notice their sows going wild for truffles thousands of years before.
Why are only female pigs used to find gourmet truffles? It's because gourmet truffle excrete the same sex pheromone as male pigs. Simple, right? We may not have the exact answer to the pig-truffle connection, but we do know that these snuffling swine play an important role in helping us first uncover these glorious delicacies.
So, while our answer to the question, do we use pigs is no, the good news is that we do know of a farm here in New South Wales that does use a pig to find their truffle. Truffle the pig (what else would you call a truffle pig?) lives on a truffle farm called L’Air du Wombat. We are told that Truffles’ unique skills are only used during the farm’s commercial hunting but you can certainly meet her when you go on one of Tricia and Rainer’s guided truffle hunts. L’Air du Wombat Truffle farm is located in the tiny town of Oallen on the banks of the Shoalhaven River, 2.5 hours from Sydney. Bookings can be made through their website.
Finding truffle with dogs.
As you probably already know, our truffle finders are Frank and Luna, that is Frank smiling on the left. Luna is probably the smarter of our two Golden Retrievers when it comes to finding truffles. She knows she is going to be fed at the end of the day so rewards in the truffiere don't work particularly well with her. As a result, most of our truffle finding is done by Frank. We trained Frank to find truffles as a pup and he has always had a hoot finding truffles. He enjoyed them so much, a lot of our training in the beginning was stopping him from eating them. If you are interested in taking a deeper dive into using dogs to find truffles you should read our previous blog post here.
You can also follow the adventures Luna and Frank as well as many of the other farm fury friends on Instagram @frank_and_luna_truffledogs.
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Ciao for now.