Stories Along The Edge: The Truffle Hunter

When you explore The South West Edge road trip, you’ll meet all sorts of local characters who will give you a glimpse into their world. Immerse yourself in their stories along the edge.

Manjimup is the centre of Australia’s Périgord truffle world: some 90% of Australia’s overall truffle harvest is pulled from the inoculated oak and hazelnut tree roots that spread beneath the rich soils of Manji and the surrounding region. Meet Adrian Mielke and his truffle dogs, Punzie, Marni and Charley Boy; the A team that hunt them out.

 

 

Adrian’s dogs are tools but they’re also family. For the consumer, that relationship between truffle hunter and hound is part of the romance of an agricultural product that fetches $1300 per kilogram (a little more than your average potato). As an observer, one would have to say a lot of Adrian’s dedication to his craft is sourced there, too.

“A lot of the times the dogs are operating on a level that we just cannot comprehend,” Adrian muses, noting their incredible olfactory ability is not just restricted to scenting truffle, but also to gauging the attitude of their trainer and the tone of activity in their broader physical space. “Understanding how they perceive their world, we’ll never really know. I guess I’m a curious person and I love to have my curiosity confounded.”

Manjimup is the centre of Australia’s Périgord truffle world: some 90% of Australia’s overall truffle harvest is pulled from the inoculated oak and hazelnut tree roots that spread beneath the rich soils of Manji and the surrounding region.

That acuity of relationship – the dogs’ desire to connect to their trainer, and Adrian’s corresponding curiosity in understanding them – is what drives this team’s success in the hunt. There’s a balletic quality in watching them work together: Adrian knows that when Punzie crab walks she’s onto a scent; Charley’s ‘show’ is not quite as precise as Punzie’s, but as the most experienced of the three dogs he very rarely gives a false positive; Marni as the novice is on with her nose, but needs to learn to stick between the tree lines.

“Part of it is the relationship with the dogs, that’s what I love,” Adrian says, a one-time market gar-dener, guide dog trainer and foraging enthusiast who’s managed to – in his words – “marry the dog with the agricultural side of things”.

He reckons it’s worked out alright. The truffle hunt is hard work, of course. Six days a week through the three-month season lunging a thousand times a day in rain, hail or shine while wrangling his charges and keeping their focus. But the way he talks about them…

“I don’t have kids so they are my kids and I get very emotionally attached. I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.”

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