Dog in training to find truffles

 Tony Southgate with his trusty dog Cosmo inspects a potential truffle site.
Tony Southgate with his trusty dog Cosmo inspects a potential truffle site. Jenna Cairney

WHEN he catches a whiff, Cosmo will start scratching the ground, then sit down and Tony Southgate will know he’s struck fungal gold.

They may look like ugly lumps, but truffles are the pinnacle of the gourmet kitchen and Mr Southgate is waiting to see if this year he will finally find the delicacy on his Granite Belt property.

Cosmo is still in training, but Mr Southgate’s wife Bron is confident the four-year-old English springer spaniel will be ready in time.

Mr Southgate and a couple of gastronomists in the Granite Belt area and purchased several “impregnated” oak trees four years ago, to see if the coldest part of Queensland would breed successful truffles.

“The idea of impregnating oak trees came from Australia and New Zealand,” he explained.

“Truffles have a symbiotic relationship with trees, growing where trees are in alkaline ground, helping the tree handle that amount of alkaline.”

Truffles originally grew in the wild, particularly in parts of Europe such as France and Italy.

They were found in the soil but the sought-after delicacy is now farmed.

“Pigs really love them, so I’ll be sitting around with my gun if we get any of them.”

When Cosmo sniffs truffles out, Mr Southgate will pop a stick in the ground and retrieve them later when they’re ready to eat.

Mr Southgate isn’t your average farmer.

An executive chef, he works occasionally in the kitchen at Felsberg Winery and at an aged pensioner home three days a fortnight.

At his Amiens property he is now something of a pioneer in growing exotic, gourmet produce.

Truffles have been successfully grown in Tasmania and WA.It will be a couple more months before he can judge his success, but foodies in the Sunshine State will be waiting to taste the results.

Fungal facts

Truffles fetch around $1700 a kilo

They are known as “the diamond of the kitchen”

The soil PH must be around 8

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