Dig the dirt on Canberra’s doorstep and you might unearth a delicacy.
The winter solstice today (21 June) marks the official start of truffle season and the launch of the Canberra region’s Truffle Festival.
The event’s president and Braidwood truffle farm owner Dick Groot Obbink said while truffles were available across the country, there’s something special about the ones grown in our backyard.
“They’re prized by chefs, providores and discerning foodies alike because the climate around Canberra almost perfectly matches the growing conditions of the famous French truffle region,” he said.
“Even better, Canberra is the only capital city in the world where truffles are grown right on the doorstep, so they can be harvested and on restaurant tables or in home kitchens within just one or two hours.”
The festival’s in its 14th year, kicking off with a multi-course truffle dinner at Hotel Realm on Friday, 1 July.
The program also included growing workshops, truffle hunts, food and wine pairings, signature menus, cooking classes and chef demonstrations across Canberra and southern NSW until mid-August.
Mr Groot Obbink said this year’s weather conditions have created some delicious truffles.
“The summer rains have benefitted us. We’re now pulling some good, ripe truffles out of the ground,” he said.
“We’re now looking for some dry weather and continuous frosts to bring out the strong aromas our region is famous for.”
Hotel Realm executive chef Fabien Wagnon said while truffles may not be to everyone’s taste, we should take the chance to sample them.
“I think what scares people is the smell. They expect something like a mushroom but then smell it and think it is too strong,” he said.
“It’s like caviar. Some people enjoy it, some don’t.”
Mr Wagnon has created dishes for the festival, such as truffle and mushroom porridge, truffle and brie croissants and truffle-infused dark sausage rolls.
But Mr Groot Obbink said there were also ways we could enjoy truffles in our own homes.
“You place some fresh eggs in a glass jar with a bit of truffle, then put that in the fridge for 24 hours,” he said.
“The flavour, the aroma, will infuse through the shell and then you can have truffle-flavoured scrambled eggs.”
Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the festival was another chance to showcase what Canberra had to offer.
“Canberrans are used to our winters and the offerings here, but for tourists having something as unique as the Truffle Festival is a point of difference and a reason to visit,” he said.
The latest data shows tourists are pouring back into the Capital, with attendance at both Enlighten Festival and Canberra Day events up more than 400 per cent on last year.
This included the highest-ever attendance at the Canberra Balloon Spectacular, the highest attendance for a Canberra Day event since 2015 and the second-highest attendance at Symphony in the Park.
Mr Barr said it was clear Canberra businesses also benefitted when tourists came to town for festivals and events.
“Tourism is one of the more important private sector contributors to our economy,” he said.
“With a total economic impact of just over $20 million, the Enlighten Festival and Canberra Balloon Spectacular provided a significant boost to Canberra’s economic recovery.
“On City Illuminations @Enlighten’s first evening, the number of visitors to Civic were the highest since New Year’s Eve.”
Overnight visitor numbers to the Capital have also increased, particularly during Enlighten, the recent school holidays and Easter break.
“Visitors spent an equivalent of 32,593 nights in the ACT during Enlighten and the Balloon Spectacular, injecting $5.4 million into the local economy,” Mr Barr said.
“It’s clear we’re seeing strong signs of recovery in Canberra led by leisure travel, with people eager to travel again, visit family and friends, and get back to attending events.”
To find out more about Canberra truffles, visit Truffle Festival.