“We bought our farm because after my husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I realised that we needed a lifestyle. Within 3 months, we bought the farm and I started looking for a hobby. I started doing cooking classes and began hearing about truffles. We went to Tasmania and learnt more about them, and after that we decided that we’d start a truffle farm.
“We first planted in 2004, and very unexpectedly, we found our first truffle under an oak that was only two and a half years old. It was then when I realised that we really had the potential to do well here. We planted more and now we have two and a half thousand trees. The key is to have dry conditions, and that’s what makes the Canberra region so good for truffle growing; we can manipulate the soil, but you cannot manipulate the weather, and as its proving here, we’ve got it.
“We always ensure that our truffles are of the highest quality. When we dig up truffles we are very careful. If I see that’s it’s burgundy in colour and not black, I leave it in the ground because it’s not ready. If it’s immature it has no flavour or aroma. We clean the truffles very carefully and we cut out any ridges that contain dirt or impurities. The offcuts are sold separately, for making things like salts and butter. We also have A-Grade truffles, which are used for fine dining silver service. I’m very particular about quality. I do all the final checking, I want to know that when the truffles go to market+ they’re perfect. We are developing an awareness in the community for a whole new produce in Australia, so it’s really critical that when people try truffles for the first time, the experience is good. If people aren’t introduced to the aroma correctly, they’ll smell it once and they won’t like it.
“The whole truffle experience is really interesting. Canberrans have embraced truffles so well; people are being educated to truffles carefully, and they understand that it’s a learning experience. The top restaurants around Canberra are starting to have things like truffle degustation nights, and I go to these dinners and speak about truffles between courses. People go away not just being introduced to the flavour, but understanding why truffles are intoxicating and uniquely different.”
Sherry McArdle English, Founder and Head Truffle Grower – French Black Truffles of Canberra