Truffles to flavour small farm field day

Rebecca TurnerThe West Australian
WA chef Alain Fabregues will be making two presentations on truffles at the Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day on May 28.
Camera IconWA chef Alain Fabregues will be making two presentations on truffles at the Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day on May 28. Credit: The Sunday Times, Daniel Wilkins

The idea of growing truffles in the Wheatbelt has attracted a fair amount of criticism since the start of the WA industry in 1997.

But for Alain Fabregues, one of WA’s most respected chefs, growing truffles on his Toodyay property has been a long-held dream.

In 2005, Mr Fabregues started his journey under the guidance of WA truffle industry icon and consultant Nick Malajczuk.

After conducting a soil analysis to find a suitable site, a 2.5ha forest of French and common oak trees was planted on his property, which overlooks the Avon River.

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Each tree was inoculated with Tuber melanosporum, commonly known as the black truffle, the most commonly cultivated variety in WA.

Truffles can be likened to an underground mushroom, being the fruiting bodies of soil fungi that live in a symbiotic relationship with the feeder roots of trees.

With inoculated oak trees often taking more than seven years to produce their first truffles, Mr Fabregues admitted growing truffles in the Wheatbelt was a different story from growing them in the South West.

However, he has proven the culinary delicacy can grow outside of the lush soils of Manjimup.

“I am learning from my mistakes and look at my experience so far as being about pioneering a new region for growing WA truffles,” Mr Fabregues said.

Recently, he was overjoyed to find immature truffles among his 1300 inoculated oak trees.

“They are not ripe but it is a great sign for later in the year,” he said.

It was the second time truffles had been discovered on his property, with the first find happening in 2011 on the eve of the now defunct Mundaring Truffle Festival.

Since then, difficulties with irrigation and lower winter rainfall have added to the complexity of developing a trufflerie. “I have learnt a lot over the past 12 years,” Mr Fabregues said. “Truffles are very dependent on water, which makes having the right amount of irrigation key to success.”

While WA has fast become one of the biggest global suppliers of black truffles, Mr Fabregues said becoming a commercial producer of truffles was never his intention.

Instead, his aim was to be able to create delicious delicacies using home-grown truffles.

Now enjoying semi-retirement after spending more than 50 years creating masterpieces in the kitchen, he said his dream was to entertain friends with a lavish long table lunch using his truffles, as well as hosting cooking classes on his property. He said he also hoped to inspire others to plant their own truffleries, and planned to share his knowledge with others at this year’s Gidgegannup Small Farm Field Day on Sunday, May 28.

At the event, from 9am-4.30pm at the Gidgegannup Showgrounds, Mr Fabregues will make two presentations on what is required to develop a trufflerie. Other presentations on the day include talks on sustainability and conservation, as well as a range of animal husbandry demonstrations.

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