This website uses cookies to improve your experience navigating our site. By continuing to browse, you are agreeing to our use of cookies.

OK, I understand

Terra Preta Truffles

Regional

Today our regional columnists Will Work For Food share their visit to a family run farm located outside Braidwood in New South Wales, which grows the ‘holy grail of gastronomy’, the French Black Truffle.

Terra Preta Truffles is run by Keith Marshall and his partner Zoe Brand alongside Keith’s parents, Peter and Kate Marshall, and his siblings Gus and Rita. The ‘modern-day treasure hunters’ give us a unique insight into days spent growing these rare and desirable delicacies.

28th November, 2017

Terra Preta Truffles  is a family run farm located outside Braidwood in New South Wales. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

Here they grow French Black Truffles. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

Terra Preta Truffles is run by Keith Marshall and his partner Zoe Brand alongside Keith’s parents, Peter and Kate Marshall, and Keith’s siblings Gus and Rita. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

‘Treaure hunters’ Keith and Zoe on the farm. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

A quartet of canine farm hands. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

The ‘holy grail of gastronomy’. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

A handful of French Black Truffles. Photo – Honey Atkinson

‘It was during that time that we discovered just how important fungi is for the forests and started inoculating the forest with different types of edible mushrooms. It was through that process that we became interested in truffles,’ tells Keith. Photo – Honey Atkinson.

Karen Locke
Tuesday 28th November 2017

‘We’re basically modern day treasure hunters.’ – Keith Marshall.

When you talk to Keith Marshall about truffles, one of the first things you’ll notice is the reverent way he talks about them, as if they were living, breathing, mystical creatures. It’s incredibly endearing, and once you learn more about them you’ll understand why, for it seems they belong just as much in an enchanted forest as they do in the culinary world. 

We travelled to Terra Preta Truffles, a family run farm just outside the historic township of Braidwood in New South Wales, at the end of this year’s Winter truffle hunting season.  

Keith and his partner Zoe Brand run the farm alongside his parents, Peter and Kate Marshall, and his siblings Gus and Rita. The family is well known for growing the ‘holy grail of gastronomy’, the French Black Truffle, or tuber melanosporum. These rare and precious edible fungi fetch a pretty penny the world over and are highly sought-after by chefs and home cooks alike. 

‘Terra Preta’ is so named because of a specific type of dark fertile earth caused by man-made burning and charcoal making. It’s the addition of this ‘biochar’ to the soil that is the family’s not-so-little secret, and a large part of their success. 

We joined the couple as they headed into the trees with truffle-hunting dogs, Sal and Shadow, close on their heels, for a ‘hunt’ unlike any we’d seen before. Instead of firearms and plaid jackets, truffle-hunters are armed only with their intuition and experience, a trusty truffle trowel, and the noses of their highly-trained dogs.  

The Marshalls have been running their truffiére for around 16 years, though as Keith explains, ‘We didn’t come into this business like a lot of truffle growers do now, where they invest millions and kind of bank their entire lives on it working. It was much more organic than that.’ 

‘We moved here when I was four years old, he says. ‘My parents bought the farm with the intention of it becoming a forestry plot and started planting all sorts of trees, both for wood and to improve the landscape.’ 

Sadly, their newly purchased land was in a bad way, the soil damaged from years of animal grazing and cropping, pesticide use and gold mining.  

Keith’s father, a renowned arborist and forester, spent years improving the soil and bringing it back to life. He reinstated natural waterways and wetlands, and ploughed the ground, returning the soil to a soft, healthy, friable condition. 

‘It was during that time that we discovered just how important fungi is for the forests and started inoculating the forest with different types of edible mushrooms – Saffron Milk Caps and Slippery Jacks. It was through that process that we became interested in truffles.’ 

‘It horrifies me that many growers blanket spray their grass and soil with poison. That whole idea just blows my mind. Truffles take all of what is in the soil around them, they are the essence of the soil. We don’t use any herbicides or pesticides or chemicals, we never have, and that’s part of our success.’ 

Success is something they have in spades, enjoying a ‘Best in Australia’ award the past two years running at the Australian Food Awards, and an esteemed reputation amongst the country’s top chefs. 

While the truffle season is relatively short, Keith says there’s an incredible culture around it, with nearby Canberra residents associating winter closely with truffle hunting. 

‘As soon as it begins to get cold we start getting all these texts and messages on Instagram asking if the truffles are ready yet!’ 

So what is it that has everyone so crazy for truffles?  

‘They have this kind of magic that makes them really desirable and captivating. Perhaps it’s because of their rarity and that they only come around once a year, but I think it’s also because they’re so mysterious and full of life,’ says Keith. 

‘We feel incredibly lucky to have such a fascinating job. We get to be out in the paddock with the dogs, effectively talking to the trees and hunting for treasure. We’re basically modern day treasure hunters.’ 

View Comments

Similar Stories

Regional

Pecora Dairy

Sheep-dairy farmers Cressida and Michael McNamara take us through their amazing tree change, from corporate jobs in Sydney to making artisan...
Karen Locke

Regional

Apple Cart Produce

Relocating from Melbourne to the picturesque Southern Highlands of NSW, small scale farmers Anna and Ben Lohse have built a business supplyi...
Karen Locke

Travel

Tasmania’s Derwent Valley with Rodney Dunn

The farm-to-table cooking school chef takes us on a tour of Lachlan and nearby New Norfolk, in the state's south-east.
Rodney Dunn

This Week

On The Market

A Corner Store Turned Architectural Home Hits The Market In Brunswick

An 1883 shopfront turned architectural home with a pool and sauna is for sale in Brunswick!

Gardens

A Slice Of Primeval Paradise In Bronte

Situated on a steep site in a sometimes blustery coastal location, the planting palette for this stunning garden in Sydney is both soft, and...

News

An Extensive Art And Design Festival Taking Over Brisbane!

Brisbane Art Design (BAD) is a public art program bringing the Sunshine State’s exemplary creative scene to the fore throughout the month
Sponsored

A Day In The Life

A Day In The Life Of Chrissy Lafian, Founder And Creative Director Of Suku

With teams in both Melbourne and Bali, Chrissy lets us in on how she runs the lifestyle brand she's built from scratch!

Studio Visit

Experimental Designer Jessie French Is Shaping A Seaweed-Centric Future

The Melbourne artist shares her process of creating seaweed-based bioplastics, the beautiful resin-like homewares she makes from it + what t...

Architecture

A Surprise Garden Brings This 'Pop-Up' Home To Life

Figr creates a unique language between architectural and landscaped spaces to truly maximise this small footprint home for a family of three...

Architecture

This Clever + Compact Bondi Home Feels Like A Never-Ending Holiday!

Fox Johnston architects managed to expand the footprint of this small and narrow Sydney site to create a generous, private haven!

Interiors

A Crash Course In Renovating Your Own Home From Top To Bottom, With BuildHer Collective

Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon of BuildHer Collective bring us a new book containing all the info you need to embark on building or ren...
Rebeka Morgan and Kribashini Hannon

News

Shop The Megan Park Archive Of More Than 10,000 Pieces!

Legendary fashion designer Megan Park has kept one of every piece she has designed over the last 22 years – and now, she’s opening h...

Stays

Northern NSW’s Newest Holiday House, Made From Recycled Materials

Book your stay at Rockhaven at Booyong – a new holiday house made from recycled materials located 40 minutes from Byron Bay.

Food

Julia's Autumnal Weeknight Rocket and Hazelnut Pesto Linguine

Julia Busuttil Nishimura's linguine with a herby rocket and hazelnut pesto is a riff on the classic weeknight family meal by adding earthy,
Julia Busuttil Nishimura

Interiors

How To Nail The Bathroom Basics, According To Reece

A crash course in very excellent bathroom design, courtesy of bathrooms + kitchens merchandising leader at Reece Bathrooms, Daniella Santill...
Sasha Gattermayr
  22 hours ago

Homes

A Magical Alistair Knox-Designed Rental In Eltham!

The seriously dreamy 1970s rental home of Pop and Scott trade manager Lucienne Van Sebille, and her partner Sebastian.

News

The Magic And Art Of Beekeeping With Honey Fingers

Mud Australia is hosting an exhibition and in conversation event with legendary urban beekeepers Honey Fingers, moderated by artist Stanisla...
Sally Tabart

Homes

A Heartwarming Home Of A Stylist (And Family!)

Justine and Bob Murphy's warm and welcoming family home is like a slice of the country... in Northcote!
Lucy Feagins
  6 hours ago

Similar Stories

Regional

Pecora Dairy

Sheep-dairy farmers Cressida and Michael McNamara take us through their amazing tree change, from corporate jobs in Sydney to making artisan...
Karen Locke

Regional

Apple Cart Produce

Small scale farmers Anna and Ben Lohse grow and sell organic vegetables and preserves in the NSW Southern Highlands.
Karen Locke

Travel

Tasmania’s Derwent Valley with Rodney Dunn

The farm-to-table cooking school chef takes us on a tour of Lachlan and nearby New Norfolk, in the state's south-east.
Rodney Dunn

The Design Files acknowledge the traditional custodians of the lands on which we work, the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We pay our respects to Elders past and present.

First Nations artists, designers, makers and creative business owners are encouraged to submit their projects for coverage on The Design Files – we would love to hear from you.

Please email us here.