Black Truffles in Provence
Truffles – the black diamond on the market and one of the few cash-only trade with the exception of drugs and the price and market value rises and falls according to the harvest and quality. I ate a week full of generous portions of truffles and had stomach cramps thanks to my own greed. The spores of truffles are incubated on the roots of “truffle trees” called Chene Blanc that you can buy at the market in Provence in Richerenches.
On one side of the market everyone’s got their cars parked in the lot with local farmers bringing their little plastic bag of loot in exchange for the market price. The season sees the trade of over 50,000 tonnes of truffles.
These old school scales are checked and evaluated every year with a certificate of proof to show that they are accurate. Don’t they remind you of Chinese Medicine stores when they weigh herbal concoctions?
It’s hard to describe the scene – because you smell it, the intoxicating aromas of truffles. A picture paints a thousand words, but in this case, it’s impossible to fully share the experience. We looked at mainly two types of truffles the Tuber melanosporum with beautiful marbling and intoxicating aroma, earthy and sensual – best of the earth. It’s hard to describe what it taste like, but it’s one of those distinct aromas that triggers memories worth a thousand Proustian flashbacks. A bit like fond memories of tropical rain and the earthy soil scent that reminds me of happy wet childhoods. The truffle is afterall a fungus and grows the same way mushrooms do – by spores reproduction, but as a tuber root (like potatoes).
While the Tuber Brumale looks deceptively like the Melanosporum, it’s of a lower grade and price, and also smells different – more like a chemical or gasoline – which I’m guessing goes into making truffle oil that always smells like gasoline to me.
Kudos to Plantin Truffle who organised the trip for a bunch of chefs who flew in from around the world and we got to meet up with a local truffier to go truffle hunting with his two dogs – a reward system for every truffle found. On still days, the flies are also a sign of where there are truffles are, but not on the cold windy day we went out on.
And here in the South of France, Carpentras also has a truffle market, where gourmands in the region do their truffle shopping.
I have to admit that yes there is such a thing as eating too much truffles – I had a bad stomachache for days with stomach cramps. I’ve had my fill for 2014, really. I am a lucky lady.
And if you’re wondering what to drink with your wonderful truffle menu? The grange des Père 2007 smells like truffles, rich, earthy aromas – and yes, we drank a few bottles of that in a week. Absolutely perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend.france, provence, richerenches, truffles hunting, vaison la romaine, valeras