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When is the best time for Australian black winter truffles?

Updated: 6 days ago

Unbeknown to the truffle consumers across Australia, this topic is one of the most controversial currently being considered within the truffle industry. So, with harvesting for Australian black winter truffle (tuber melanosporum) just around the corner, this week, we thought we would explore the the factors of truffle ripening and some of the things you should be looking for when choosing those black diamonds for your first truffle celebration.

In particular we are going to focus on timing and the truffle cycle which starts late in September and ends in August every year.

The truffle growth cycle.
Truffles go through a cycle of growth, ripening, decay and regeneration all year round

When does truffle season start in Australia?

First things first, there is no official date for the start of the Australian black winter truffle season, and there is a very good reason for this. Being the size of Europe, the climatic differences across the various truffle growing regions of Australia are enormous. Truffiers are located from Tasmania to Queensland on the east coast as well as across the entire south west of Western Australia, mostly around Manjimup. So the choice as to when to bring truffles to market each year is largely left to each farmer who is best placed to judge the local conditions and soils in which their truffles grow.

Migrating birds are like ripening truffles.
Migrating birds are like truffles, They progress to their final destination at different speeds.

What are the factors farmers consider to start truffle hunting?

In this section we are mostly going to outline the factors we at Fish River Truffles consider when deciding when to start our hunts. We don't want to talk for other farms but we are assuming, for the most part, farmers are following, or at least have access to, the same body of research and best practice when it comes to truffle ripening.

The most important factor when it comes to truffle ripening is time. You thought I was going to mention frost or cold didn't you? Let me explain using a flock of migrating birds. Each year flocks of birds, thousands and thousands of them, make that trip from one continent to another looking for prefect eating or nesting conditions. But have you noticed that they don't all arrive on the same day? In some cases it takes weeks and weeks for all of the birds to arrive at their favorite summer nesting spot. Well its the same for truffle ripening in any single truffiere.

Like the early starter birds who arrive first, some truffles, because of micro climate they are in, or because of their particular variety, or because of the soil or tree to which they are attached, ripen earlier than others. Then, as the season progresses more and more truffles ripen as the days become shorter and nights colder and their maturation progresses. By the time the last two weeks in June roll around, most truffles have ripened (for this example at O'Connell, NSW). But like those strangler birds, there will always be those stubborn few truffles which are not yet ripe even by the time hunting starts. It will take them more time.

Now imagine another truffiere, say for example in Tasmania, where the most significant ripening factors like cooler temperatures come earlier. On the whole, the majority of these truffles will ripen earlier than in a truffiere located in Queensland. But remember, even if that is the case, some of these Tasmanian truffles, due to their micro climate etc etc, will not have ripened by the start of hunting, again, it will take time. I know, its complex.

The controversy?

Some farms are hunting early and bringing unripe truffle into the market place.

Tuber melanosporum with cream flesh
An unripe tuber melanosporum with cream flesh.
tuber melanosporum with grey and black flesh
Unripe truffle this time with mixed grey and black flesh

Summarising the things you need to know to find your best truffles.

  • Australia's truffle farms are located in a large variety of climates, soils and other conditions which impact their aroma and final flavours. This is exciting, because like wines, truffles from different states and regions will have different aromas and flavors for you to enjoy and become expert in detecting.

  • Different truffles within the same truffiere, let alone from different states, will ripen at different times.

  • All truffles continue to ripen while in the ground (see the truffle cycle above). This means that truffles hunted at the end of the season, on average, will have more aroma and flavour, than those hunted at the beginning of the season.

  • To determine if a truffle is ripe, all truffles will have a farmer's cut so you can see the internal flesh (gleba). Ripe black winter truffle have flesh that is BLACK with WHITE veins, see below. Move to the next truffle if the flesh is white, grey, brown or a variation there of.

  • The best indicator of your truffle's performance is AROMA. Aroma is king, both its intensity and its complexity.

  • To find YOUR best truffle, use the aroma to identify the notes and compounds in common with the ingredients of the dish you are preparing. For more on this see our post on aroma and truffle compounds here.

Ripe tuber melanosporum on smashed avocado
Buon appetito! Fish River Truffles on smashed avo.

And that is it. I hope you found that all useful. If you have a comment please drop it in the space below. If you liked the post please give us a like, we really appreciate them.

Not long before hunting starts.


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