A truffling we will go.

A noise, nagging away incessantly in my ear forced me to turn towards the sound, and I  abruptly left my dreamy island paradise and awoke in a bed, in The Vaucluse, at the base of the Mont Ventoux, at 0530, in the dark, ready to go on a two hour truffling course. In the shadow of the beast of Provence the mornings are chilly, even in the height of summer, and looking up at the top of the mountain the clouds were just visible, moving rapidly across the sky. The truffling is done early as once the sun gets too hot, the smell evaporates in the heat and its too hard for the dogs to work.

I’d hired a gite for a few days, and the owner, Christophe, a truffle grower and seller, had offered to show me how he worked. Having never done it before, in fact having never even tasted truffle, I jumped at the chance. He came in, tall with his drawn southern accent, coffee in hand, and sat down. An hours talk over coffee about the lifecycle of the truffle, the different types, would be followed by a half hour walk through the trees to show everything he’d spoken about and then finally 15 minutes with his best dog to see what we could find.

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Christophe explained how he bought the young trees with roots infected with truffle spores, but this was no guarantee of success. Once planted, the two types of oak, deciduous and evergreen (two types, who knew?) would grow, some would produce, some wouldn’t. He told us there are two types of truffle that grow in his area, a summer and a winter variety.  If they are going to be productive this can be seen early in the development, by an area called “burning.” It resembles an area treated by some form of weedkilling product, but is in fact caused by the chemical reaction of the truffle spores.

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It’s not the best picture but you can clearly see an area that appears to have been treated.

As we reached the trees he did explain the season for summer truffles was now over. He was happy to go out one more time, to show us his job, but it was unlikely that we would find anything.

Once the burnt area appears, the next sign is the soil splitting, like a clay field during a hot dry period.

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The tell-tale crack in the soil is on the right hand side of the pic. Knowing his trees as he did, this was the beginning of a winter truffle, so we wouldn’t be digging about in there, as it would rot.

And then, the moment we’d been waiting for, One man:

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and his dog: (Diana, the French infatuation with the late Princess still runs deep)

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working together. Diana was a small, lithe bundle of energy, easily capable of leaving the famous Mr Bolt well behind her. She didn’t stop moving from the second she came out of her home until she went back in after her work. Christophe explained that his dogs only work for 15 to 20 minutes each, as they become very tired very quickly. He also showed us the different keys he had for locking the kennels. A trained truffle dog like Diana can easily fetch 6000 euros and theft is not uncommon.

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After a few minutes of sprinting after her all over the orchard, she stopped and started to dig, and uncovered:

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which, once taken out of the ground and cleaned with the special brush, looked like this:

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Black gold, with a smell that is totally indescribable. Earthy, strong but impossible to define. In France, the word used for a dogs nose is “un truffe” and you can see why.

Christophe was not only a great host, but a man truly passionate about his work. He has always stayed true to the ancient methods of treating and pruning his trees, all by hand, according to the seasons. I’d never seen a fresh truffle in my life, but after the two hour lesson, I’d learned a huge amount on the subject, being taught by a real expert. We only found one, which was one more than he’d thought, but his teaching was so interesting I would have enjoyed it as much if we’d found nothing.

Should you ever pass near to Le Mont Ventoux and want to do the course, contact me and I’ll give you his details.

Oh, by the way, he gave us the truffle, and we ate it that night, grated into a hot plate of mashed potato.

What a taste. The fuss and clamour over truffles are totally understandable.

For more posts on life in France and French living, head to: http://www.loumessugo.com/en/blog/entry/all-about-france-3

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About bobleponge216

Elderly rotund toothless male seeks wilderness to travel to.
This entry was posted in Living In France, Travel. Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to A truffling we will go.

  1. Nikki says:

    What a fascinating experience! And another proof that you lead a charmed life… a handsome truffle to enjoy at dinner too.

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    • ‘Tis true that I have been very lucky. The experience was so good because of the passion Christophe has for his subject, it’s not only his job but his hobby too. Many thanks for taking the time to read it.

      Like

  2. That is such a wonderful experience. I never knew truffles were hunted early in the morning or that the trained dogs could fetch such a price! The village next to mine is famous (locally) for its truffles and has a festival every autumn to whihc I usually fail to get to, owing to kids sporting committments!! Thanks for linking up to #AllAboutFrance again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Totally impromptu, I’d rented his gite for a couple of days to climb Le Ventoux on my bike, we got on really well and he asked if I’d be interested. Was absolutely fantastic, loved it. Going to climb Le Ventoux again at the end of this month, using his gite again and hope to get out and do a bit more truffling if the season allows.

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  3. rosemarykneipp says:

    Oooh! how very interesting! We went to a truffle fair in Touraine in January and found it fascinating. We even bought two at great expense. I’m going to look into going to Le Ventoux and staying at this man’s gîte. I’ll be in contact!
    In the meantime, may I include this post in my Weekly Blogger Round-Up?

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    • Hi, Christophe couldn’t be either a better host or a more knowledgeable truffler. A gent, with a good sense of humour. Thanks for taking the time to read my post, please feel free to include wherever you wish.
      Rgds
      Chris

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  4. What a great experience, I’m really jealous. We have a truffle assoc here in Deux Sevres and I’ve seen the dogs working, but I’ve never been out with them. Thanks for sharing. #AllAboutFrance

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks, it was totally out of the blue too, which probably made it all the better. I shall be seeing Diane again at the end of this month, although its out of truffle season I think so she wont be working.

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  5. Diane Oui In France says:

    Interesting! I never knew anything about truffle hunting until a business in the South of France (maybe the same guy?) sent me a newsletter with info on their property and how the truffles are procured. If I’m ever down that way, I want to do the tour!

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    • If its the same bloke (unlikely as I don’t think he advertises) then it would be a fantastic way to pass a couple of hours. A gentleman in all senses, passionate about his truffles and a nice bloke who doesn’t mind a glass or 3 of beer either.

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  6. whatupswags says:

    Awesome topic! So interesting, it makes so much more sense now why truffle-infused dishes are so expensive in restaurants! Excellent story-telling here, too. I’ve been reading way too many blogs today, and yours caught me up in the first few sentences. Great post!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Many thanks for the kind words, very much appreciated. I think the story told itself, thanks entirely to the passion that Christophe shows for his work. He lives and breathes truffles and is also a thoroughly nice man to boot. And yes, they are expensive and I’d never understood why, until this visit.

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  7. Di Warren says:

    Great story – makes me want to go Truffle hunting, what an amazing experience

    Liked by 1 person

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