Food & Beverage
Jul 1, 2015
The Black Diamonds of France
Truffles. One of the most wanted, expensive and exquisite ingredients in the world, truffles have been a thing in the kitchens since the 16th century, but recently is more expensive than ever. The fact that it takes years for a tree to be able to grow a truffle, the difficulty of cultivation, as well as its rarity, means the demand for this product is ever on the rise.
Truffles are a type of subterranean mushroom that grows among the root systems of specific types of trees and develops a symbiotic relationship with them, mainly oak, but also beech, hazelnut, chestnut, birch and poplar. It is a wild natural product, very difficult to cultivate and control, making it even more prized. The average weigh of a truffle stands around 30 to 60 grams, and there are two main types of truffles preferred: tuber melanosporum, the black truffles, and Tuber magnatum, the white ones.
The French truffle is found mainly in the southeast of the country, producing 70% of the country's total produce. About 50 tons of black truffles are collected in France in a normal year of harvest.
There are various ways to find truffles if you want to go truffle hunting. You can get a pig (literally), preferably a female pig, because to them, it smells like testosterone, but you risk not taking any home, because they also LOVE the thing, and will eat it if you don't get to it first.
Or, you can take a dog! Dogs can be trained to find the truffles, and to find a good truffle dog one must be ready to pay: they are very expensive. Or you can try you luck and patient, a go walk around a known truffle site, and observe underneath the trees. The places where the ground seems burned and nothing grows, may have a growing truffle underground.
But probably the best way to get truffles is to buy it from local markets. In Provence, there's a big cult of the truffle harvest, and therefore there are several markets to choose from.
I the well over a hundred varieties if truffles, the most exquisite of them are the Périgord truffles. These black beauties are collected between December and March, but the ones collected in January and February are at their peak of flavor and aroma, and are often referred to as "The Diamonds of Périgord". They are rarer, therefore more desirable and expensive than any other.
Périgord black truffles are called the queens of truffles by chefs everywhere, and their intense smell, beautiful texture and vivid flavor make any dish with even the thinnest slice of the mushroom much, much more rich and aromatic. They are best if cooked, because the heat brings up the earthly taste as well as the aroma, and go really well with several types of meat.