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

Homes

A Rustic, Inner-City Family Home Of 33 Years

Inside a Cornish/Spanish/Greek style home terrace renovation – in Port Melbourne!

Homes

A Pint-Sized Coastal Home That Does More With Less!

Harriet Birrell aka Natural Harry, and building designer Fraser West, turned an exisiting structure into a dreamy 40 square metre home on Vi...

On The Market

The Colourful Beach House Of Kip&Co’s Co-Founder Is For Sale!

The renovated 1970s beach house in Sorrento, Victoria, of Kip&Co's Kate Heppell has hit the market.

Creative People

Australia's Original Instagram Secondhand Furniture Seller

We chat with OG Instagram seller Pip Newell of Curated Spaces, about how she grew her business out of her living room to a network of more t...

Studio Visit

Artist Callum Preston Joins Forces With MONOPOLY and Movember, To Raise $150,000 For Men's Health

The Australian street artist reimagines 'MR MONOPOLY' in a new light – and it's all for a great cause!
Lucy Feagins
  10 hours ago

Furniture

A Lush New Line Of Contemporary Furniture From Jardan

The ‘Living Form’ collection reinterprets Jardan’s classic designs, with traditional Australian textures - and some brand new silhouet...
Sasha Gattermayr

Architecture

A Generous, Light-Filled Addition To A Heritage Home

A restoration and renovation project in Kensington, NSW by Studio Prineas creates a harmonious dialogue between old and new.
Sasha Gattermayr

News

These Recycled Tote Bags Are The Real Deal!

The winner of 2019 TDF Design Awards Textile Design category, Georgina Whigham, debuts a new collection of zero waste denim bags with local
Sasha Aarons

Architecture

A Stunning Coastal Home, Created From A Revolutionary Building Material

This house by FMD Architects is built using CLT (cross laminated timber) – a revolutionary, sustainable building material.

Art

The Artist Painting Her Way Through Lockdown

Regional NSW-based landscape artist Edwina Edwards retreats into nature for a new exhibition, ‘Bush Solace’.
Sasha Gattermayr

On The Market

A Landmark Inner-City Sustainable Home In Melbourne Is On The Market!

This architect-designed, three-bedroom Brunswick home is part of the impressive Davison Collaborative project, and boasts some serious susta...
Sally Tabart
  2 hours ago

Architecture

A Mood-Enhancing Melbourne Home

Kennedy Nolan have knocked it out of the park again, transforming a Victorian house with a dated extension into a cohesive home, with uplift...

TDF Design Awards

You’re Invited To The Design Files + Laminex Design Awards 2020!

Join us on November 5th at 7pm for our online ceremony as we celebrate the finalists and reveal all the winners – and WIN a bespoke sculpt...

Design Eye

Studio Martin on Refined Rattan

Emerging design duo Lauren and Amanda Martin share their advice on using rattan furniture in contemporary interiors, in partnership with DOM...

News

Space Furniture Is Having An EPIC End Of Year Sale Right Now!

Enjoy savings of up to 50% off (!!) furniture, lighting, and accessories from some of our favourite local and international designers, both
Sponsored

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.