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Edible black gold

It may look like a dirty potato but it is a truffle. Photo - Truffle Treasures

By Meg Kennedy

Wintertime may not be the season most look forward to, but for two local sisters it’s the most exciting time of year for their business.
Sue and Sharon Daly run ‘Truffle Treasures’ just off the Ballan-Daylesford Rd on their 20-acre Korweinguboora property, which is lined with Holly Oak trees inoculated with Tuber melanosporum to create the Perigord black truffle.
As the weather draws colder, the sisters and their expert truffle-sniffers – dogs Abbie and Holly (also sisters) – prepare to welcome visitors from all over the State onto their farm for their annual truffle hunts.
Truffle is a fungus that grows under the ground, the result between the roots of certain types of tree that has been ‘infected’ with the appropriate ‘fungus root’ that will allow a truffle to grow.
After growing throughout the warmer months, come winter the truffles are ready for harvest; where Abbie and Holly are expertly-trained to sniff out and then dig for truffles under the trees.
Sue explains that after celebrating the first truffle of the season with a bottle of Moet, visitors embark on the property to compete against each other as to who can find the most truffles within the time-frame.
“We’ve got the red team, which is Sharon and Holly, and the blue team, which is myself and Abby,” says Sue.
“We ask people to divide themselves into part of the red team and part of the blue team, and we set forth with our big blue tray; Holly and Sharon set forth with the big red tray to see who returns after about half an hour to 45-minutes of truffle hunting, with the most truffles.”
Sue says the teams usually return with about two-kilograms worth of truffles, and visitors are then given the opportunity to have tastings of their “black gold” findings.
Truffle Treasures has been 10-years in the making, with Sue explaining the idea came from originally looking for a tree-change in Hepburn Springs and after purchasing their property, looked at options that could return an investment.
“I did a little bit of homework at that time around a few concepts; at that stage truffles had been successfully grown in both Western Australia and Tasmania predominately, and there were successful growers in Victoria as well,” she said.
“It seemed to me that truffles were the most intriguing of all of the options I explored, and there was a bit of a challenge to see whether I could do it too.”
Truffle growing is relatively new in the Southern Hemisphere, starting at New Zealand in the late 1980s as a government initiative, and later in Australia.
As for her favourite part of running the business, Sue says it comes from “sharing magnificent time with our two beautiful Border Collie/Labrador cross dogs and being successful in training them to hunt truffles.”
“The other thing is that I continue to love is sharing the pleasure and unravelling the mystery of truffles with the general public and educating them about something that Australians have been missing out on for centuries.”
The annual Truffle Treasure Hunts with Abbie and Holly will be held on Sunday 7, 14 and 27 July at $85.
The Complete Truffle Indulgence, including a truffle hunt and a five-course truffle-infused lunch at Sault Restaurant, will be held on Saturday 20 July and Saturday 3 August at $190.
Tickets are available to purchase from their website.
Truffle Treasures will also be at each of the winter Ballan Farmers’ Markets and is open for farm-gate sales most weekends in winter from 1pm till 5pm pm at 70 Sultana Rd, Spargo Creek.
For more information visit their website www.truffletreasures.com.au, or Facebook page.

Sue and Sharon Daly celebrating their ‘truffle sniffers’ Abbie and Holly’s birthday.
Photo – Leone Fabre