Kate Wendelgelst needs to be a very patient woman. She has to wait years before she digs to see if the truffles she has planted are growing.
"They say not to bother until at least 5 [years], and then other people I've talked to have been 10, 15 years down the track before they've actually had a successful dig."
In the meantime, Kate is growing oyster, poplar and shitake mushrooms on her property just out of Dunedin. She supplies them fresh to restaurants and shoppers at the Otago Farmers' Market when there's enough, and also dried.
Some of the mushrooms are grown in temperature-controlled environments that "technically should smell like the bush does. It should smell sweet... musty, but not bad."
Others, like birch boletes, grow outdoors and their production depends entirely on the weather. This year was far too hot and dry for the birch boletes to thrive.
Kate says she was contemplating growing flowers but fending off Otago's rabbits would have been a constant battle and despite all that can go wrong with the mushrooms, it's the challenge of growing them successfully that keeps her going.