Truffles from Longford - yes, really

To spot truffles, you typically look for the brûlée or burn, around the trees. They grow best in south-facing beech, oak, birch and hazel woods

 

There’s nothing quite like truffles for a touch of decadence in the kitchen. But they’re an expensive indulgence, so it was with interest that I heard about the discovery of a stash of the wonderful black beauties in deepest Longford.

Chef Gary O’Hanlon confirmed it wasn’t a wind up – Longford truffles via the Langhe for instance – and he has indeed been serving dishes made with local truffles at Viewmount House.

“Years ago I got some from a local lady and they were wonderful,” says O’Hanlon. “She also sent some to Kieran Glennon at Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud as he’s from Longford. Then, a few weeks ago, another source came forward with a few kilos, so I’ve been using them in various dishes at Viewmount House.”

Mushroom expert Bill O’Dea, who sells truffle-inoculated hazel saplings for planting, confirms the existence of Irish truffles. “I am aware of truffles growing in Longford, Laois, Kerry and Tipperary. I have found and eaten some of them. We have several types here, but the most common seems to be the chestnut to apple-sized summer truffle and the stronger tasting Burgundy truffle, typically found from October to December. Both are black, roundish in shape and polygonal warts. Inside, the summer truffle’s flesh is brown with white veins and it tastes and smells mild; the winter truffle’s flesh is grey/black and smells very strong.

So, with long walks to look forward to at this time of year, should we be keeping our eyes peeled for the black gold as we tramp through woodland?

“To spot truffles, you typically look for the brûlée or burn, around the trees. They grow best in south-facing beech, oak, birch and hazel woods. Now is the season, until late spring, depending on the type,” O’Dea says.

“Ideally you should have a trained dog to find them. We have one, we trained him ourselves over time using truffles and tennis balls.”

And what of those truffle-inoculated saplings that O’Dea sells (see mushroomstuff.com), are they yielding rich harvests? “We haven’t really done any follow up, but the time period is about right now for initial truffles to be showing. I have no doubt most will work.”

If you can’t wait years for your own truffles to appear, and aren’t willing to pin your hopes on a forest expedition, you can order Italian ones from Fallon & Byrne in Dublin (fallonandbyrne.com, average weight 30g, €50) and delivery takes four working days.

A rather more immediate truffle hit can be satisfied by picking up a slice of truffled brie from the same shop’s cheese counter (€58 a kilo).

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