Manjimup Truffles is part of the Blakers family business of Five Acre Nursery, which has been a major vegetable and tree production nursery since 1978 and is located on Seven Day Road, a few kilometres south west of Manjimup which is the epicentre of truffle production in Western Australia.
We commenced our first commercial planting in 1997, which consisted of 1,300 trees over 5 acres. An additional 32 acres has been established with the most recent in 2018 giving a total of 8,300 trees. Our first truffle was harvested in 2004 from the initial orchard and the rest is history.
The Western Australian truffle industry is based on the French black truffle or Périgord truffle (Tuber melanosporum) grown in association with hazelnut trees (Corylus avellana) and oak trees (mainly Quercus robur and Q. ilex). Seedlings are inoculated with fungal spores from mature truffles before being planted out into orchards (or trufferies). Truffle production usually begins five to seven years after planting.
Black truffles are a very high value crop. However, their production requires significant capital expenditure, is labour intensive and requires ongoing summer and autumn irrigation. Many truffle orchards around the world have failed to produce as expected.
Black truffles are best understood as an underground mushroom, it is the fruiting body of the fungus. The truffle contains the spores of the fungus and when the spores are ripe the truffle develops characteristic aromas. Black truffles are native to Western Europe and are now cultivated as a horticultural crop in North and South America, New Zealand and Australia as well as Europe.
The life cycle of the truffle is somewhat different to that of the more familiar aboveground mushrooms. Whereas mushrooms develop rapidly after rain events in the appropriate season, truffles are initiated in summer and early autumn and continue to grow before maturing in the cold winter months. Hence, by the time a truffle is mature (and aromatic) enough to attract the attention of a well-trained dog, it will have been developing underground for up to eight months.
The truffle fungus has a symbiotic (mutually beneficial) association with the host tree by means of mycorrhizae, which are the combinations of the tree feeder roots with the truffle fungus hyphae.
The fungus supplies the tree with nutrients from the soil and may make water more available to the tree, while the tree provides the fungus with a place to live and supplies carbohydrates (sugars) for growth.
Black truffles are located up to 30cm below ground and generally weigh between 30 and 300g, but can be as heavy as 1.3kg. The shape of truffles varies wildly with some being a uniform round shape while others may have numerous crevices and lobes.
Harvesting commences in the Manjimup/Pemberton region in late May and continues until early September.