From December to March it’s truffle season! In France, you can find this delicious product mainly in Dordogne and Provence.
Tuffles: a long history
Truffles have been know since the Antiquity: we know they were probably already used by the Egyptians and during the Roman Empire.
During the Middle Age truffles were rarely used, even if some texts seems to refear to truffle hunting and their use, both in Europe and in the Middle East. Middle Age European cuisine was caracterized by a strong use of spices coming from the Eastern countries, which don’t pair well with the distinctive taste of truffles.
It’s not untill the reign of King François I (1515 – 1547) that truffles regained popularity in Europe. During his reign, French cuisine started to abandon the heavy Oriental spices to rediscover the natural taste of food. Trufles were very popular in Parisian markets during the 1780s. Even at the time, truffles were an extremely expensive product, imported seasonally from truffle-grounds in the French countryside. Only rich aristocrat families could afford them!
Black Truffles from Perigord
There are different varieties of truffles, some of the most famous are the Black Truffles of Perigord (France, Dordogne region) and the White Truffles of Alba (Italy, Piedmont region).
Black truffles are typical of the Perigord and Provence regions. This is the second-most expensive species and grows with oak and hazelnut trees. They are harvested in late winter, especially from December to March in Dordogne and in Provence. Nowadays, 70% of the black truffle French production comes from Provence, especially the Vaucluse region.
Many events are organized to celebrate this delicious and unique product, as for exemple the “Saison de la truffe en Pays d’Uzès” with a vast program from December 2016 to March 2017. For more information you can contact the Uzès Tourism Board here.
Dordogne has its own festival. Every year the “Sarlat Truffle Festival” takes place mid-January. A large truffle market is held over the weekend, featuring an abundance of fresh truffles as well as derived products. Truffle-hunting demonstrations with trained dogs will take place twice a day in the trufflery to be set up on Place du Peyrou (the cathedral square). Fine more information here.
Trufficulture: truffles can be cultivated
Joseph Talon is considered ad the inventor of trufficulture. He lived in Saint-Saturnin-d’Apt, in the Vaucluse departement, Provence region. In 1808 he realized that truffles only grew among the roots of certains trees, he decided then to transplant some seedlings at the foot of oak trees, known to host truffles in their root system.
Talon’s truffles became more and more popular. He showed them at the World Fair in 1847 and won the golden medal. He even start selling his seedling amongst other farmers of the region. The trufficulture was born!
Trained dogs and pigs are used to find truffles in the ground.
Truffles can be used in many different ways and many different types of dishes. You can both use fresh truffles or preserved truffles and adapt your recipe. Preserved truffles can be used for sauces and creams, while fresh truffles can be freshly grated over the dish.
Today you can even find truffles pizza and truffles burgers!