The truffle harvest season has come to an end for us here at Kings Truffles, Waipara, North Canterbury. Now that we have been in production for over five years we are seeing a real increase in numbers (so hence total weight) of truffle. Total weight was more than four times greater than last year, so perhaps one of New Zealand’s farming industries that can thank the long, very hot summer, dampened occasionally by our irrigation.
The first truffle was dug out of the ground on 12th June, but there were reports of ripe truffle being found early/mid May in Canterbury. July is when we peaked with a steady stream of truffles, located and harvested every week. Usually August is when we find the bulk of our truffle but this year it was a bit slower, though still high in quality. Our last truffle fit for sale was 30th August, though we still located several more in early September. However these were starting to dry out and the peridium was very thick and hard. A mix of tree species produced for the first time this season. Some of the older oaks (both ilex and robur) and hazel have now come into production, as well as another handful of the 5 year old ilex trees producing for the first time. I am still yet to find a pattern if a certain tree species is better for producing the Perigord truffle (and don’t think I will), instead I have my preferred tree species based on the amount of work involved for each and their appearances. However it is very apparent at our block that specific site characteristics play a crucial part for success in growing truffles.
The season didn’t go without its downfalls. Losing our first truffle dog, Digger, was a blow and meant that Freddy really had to step up, and fast. Turns out she just needed to be number one as she filled Diggers shoes (or paws) and quickly over took him on ability to find truffles and hunt for longer periods of time. It was also a very dry winter for us and perhaps this played a role in the later part of the season not being as abundant as usual. We have finally had some rain but still only 38mm total for September and so far only 3mm for October!
Marketing and sales of the truffles continues. The bitter/sweet time is starting to come where more growers are now becoming producers. Great that we can supply restaurants on a more frequent basis and get the public aware of these culinary treasures, but it is meaning that people are needing to start to work a little harder and get creative in making sure they make the most out of their fresh truffle and manage to sell it (this is if they have some left over from their own meals). This season along with the usual outlets selling truffle, Kings Truffles was part of the Canterbury Truffle Festival, acted as agent for several other growers and managed to send our first trial lot of truffle to Hong Kong. We will be heading to Hong Kong in December to visit our contacts and follow up, as well as a few other potential export contacts across the world.
For now we are getting things back in order at the truffiere as well as more work in the tunnel house.