After living in West Melton for 15 years, Lisa and Stephen were ready to explore more of what Selwyn had to offer. They never expected that their next step would be unearthing Selwyn’s white gold. “We were driving home one night when we stumbled upon the 'For sale' sign. We were intrigued with the opportunity and challenges a truffle farm could bring," Lisa explains.
Tresillian Truffles is located in West Melton on what started as the Tresillian sheep run in 1851. The sandy soils make it difficult to grow pastures but provide the optimum environment for the Bianchetto Truffle.
After purchasing the property in 2017 the Williams family refined the truffierre by giving the trees a facelift. The pine trees, hazelnut trees, and oak trees which the truffle grow on were pruned, allowing more light to reach the truffles. Along with Selwyn’s free-draining soils and the addition of lime, it was the perfect environment for the Bianchetto Truffle to grow.
It was a family effort, everyone was pitching in to remove the branches. With Stephen on the chainsaw, Lisa and their teenage daughters Sarah and Samantha carried and mulched the branches.
The Bianchetto Truffle grows underground on the root hairs of the pine, hazelnut and oak trees. They range in depths from 15cm below the ground to just below the surface. Bess, the Williams’ family Sprocker Spaniel dog, can detect the rich aroma from the truffle. She can also distinguish the maturity of the truffle through the intensity of the aroma, meaning only ripe truffles are harvested. "The unknown of what lies beneath the soil makes every truffle hunt different and exciting. It is the best office anyone could ask for!” The family sometimes open the farm to the public to join them on a truffle hunt and to learn more about how truffles grow.
Once harvested, the truffles are cleaned by hand with a range of fine brushes and then packed and sent throughout New Zealand to various restaurants. With Tresillian Truffles only being a short 15-minute drive to the airport, the truffles can arrive to the customer fresh and ready to use the next day. It’s important to get the truffles to restaurants as soon as possible. “We try to harvest the truffles in the morning and then have them sent by the end of the day.”
Sitting down to a degustation meal with fresh Bianchetto truffle and paired Selwyn wines is all part of the 'paddock to plate' experience. Combining other local products such as honey and oil brings out the rich flavor of the truffles. Sourcing locally means that the Williams’ family know where all of their ingredients comes from and they are able to pick them up personally, which gives them confidence they are providing a top quality experience. The story behind their product, and keeping their product local is of the utmost importance to the Williams family.
This experience shows the customers the importance of sustainability and responsibility that growers and individuals hold in preserving the natural wonder of truffles. Tresillian Truffles work carefully to ensure they promote a carbon-neutral farm by planting trees and monitoring irrigation use. Maintaining a sustainable farm is vital for the positive symbiotic relationship between the tree and the micro-organisms in the soil, allowing the truffles to grow in abundant production.
"Taking people on the journey from harvesting to tasting the truffle is so rewarding; it is why we do what we do. We love seeing the expressions on people’s faces when they find their first truffle and smell the intensity of it," Lisa says.
Written by Sarah Williams
For more information on when dining experiences are available to book or truffle hunts are scheduled, check out: www.facebook.com/tresilliantruffles