Terra Preta is a wonderful trufferie run by Peter and Kate Marshall (with help from all the kids!) in Braidwood, NSW.
Madame Truffles and the Marshalls have been close partners ever since we opened our doors 5 years ago. We ran an interview with Peter in the newspaper we printed in the first year, and this was the third time we visited their farm. Every time you talk with the Marshall's you learn more than you can remember and leave feeling more enlightened and positive about the future of the truffle industry in Australia. But you also leave wishing that more people could experience time with these amazing people.
It is hard to summarise what makes Terra Preta and its truffle unique, but here is a quick guide:
1. Terra Preta is so named because they make their own 'black earth' each year that provides natural nutritional addition to the trufferie. This, in part, gives the truffles their stunning unique 'smoky' aroma.
2. Peter has extensively researched what made the French tufferies so successful prior to the World Wars and has developed his farm to mimic this natural habitat. In particular this involves extensive pruning of the trees to mimic the squirrels and deers that would trim the trees in early 20th century France.
3. This pruning is critical for a number of reasons. Firstly, it allows for appropriate sunlight to hit the ground in the summer. But it also sends signals to the truffles underground that aids their development.
4. The Marshalls use no pesticides or herbicides.
Just to note that this is a very superficial summary. Peter is a treasure trove of knowledge about truffles, soil, forestry, irrigation and the broader natural environment that he and Kate are so keen to protect and develop for future generations, and has been investigating truffles since the 1970s.
As a result of their approach, the trufferie has a very different look and feel to the farms we have visited elsewhere.
The initial plot that their truffle still comes from is a mixture of hazel and oak. Peter has planted many more trees that will start to fruit in the next few years, and is experimenting with multiple oaks from around the world.
More importantly, what about the truffles? Well, remarkably, on 23rd May, we went hunting and uncovered a number of ripe truffles which is unheard of at this time of year.
The truffles are found by Sal and Shadow. They will feature as the stars of Dog of the Month at some point soon!
And as a result, for dinner we had a beautiful truffle mash potato courtesy of Andy Gale (pictured above)! We also returned to Melbourne with 250g of ripe truffle to play with ahead of the store openings.
As a final note, Peter also invited us to wander through the pine forest, which he had planted in the 1990s and we foraged for Saffron Milk Cap and Slippery Jacks. We also wandered through the wetlands he re-created. Amazing.