Truffle growers usually keep the location of their crop a secret, but not in Puketapu, where Sacre Monte have opened the gates to visitors.

Twenty-three years ago, Kees van Munckhof put down a truffiere in a corner of his lifestyle block.

Truffles have a distinctive smell, impart a rich flavour in a variety of dishes and will only grow in a very alkaline soil next to a select few varieties of trees.

At first he thought he'd failed, but 16 years later the underground fungus, worth thousands per kilo, started appearing, to the delight of local chefs and foodies.


On the suggestion of a local chef, Sacre Monte hosted its first truffle hunt as part of the Hawke's Bay Food and Wine Classic.

"We did get involved with FAWC last year and within half an hour, both Saturday and Sunday were booked out," van Munckhof said.

"This year we experienced the same thing, so we thought 'maybe we will build on that'."

The tours are becoming increasingly popular, especially with chief truffle-sniffer Bear.

"We'll go down there to the truffiere, we do a talk about what truffles are, a bit about our experience and then Bear will go into the truffiere and we'll start the hunt.

"Once Bear's located where the truffle is it is just a simple thing of getting on the ground and using your own nose.

"So most people come out with dirt on their nose when they are finished. But it's great – it's all part of the experience."

So far there has been a 100 per cent hit rate for each hunt. Truffle hunters don't get to keep Bear's bounty, although they can taste it in various dishes after the hunt.


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