The coveted black truffle
Truffles are in season!
The coveted black truffle – tuber Melanosporum – is found essentially in Provence, though it can also be found in the Périgord region in France, and also in parts of Italy and spain. Truffles are underground mushrooms (not the chocolate kind!), and like any other mushroom they cannot produce their own energy through photosynthesis like plants do. And so in order to survive, they must attach themselves to another plant to receive nutients. Truffles can attach themselves to several different tree species, though oaks are the only ones used in plantation. The truffle begins as a root system of thin filaments that spreads underground, attaching themselves to the roots of the oak tree. This is a symbiotic relationship: the oak provides nourishment to the mushroom but also uses the thin filaments of the truffle’s root system to extract minerals from the soil. After about 8 years of co-existence, once the root system of the truffle has spread sufficiently, it produces its “fruit”: the truffle. The production of truffles will last for about 30 years, after which the tree will stop "harbouring" truffles and will need to be replaced. After maturing for months, truffles ripen in mid-November and can be harvested until mid-March. Though you may associate pigs with truffle hunting, today’s truffle hunters are dogs, who take upwards of a year of training to be ready to find the black diamonds. Due to several factors, including climate change, but mostly due to the abandon of truffle oak plantations, truffles have become increasingly rare treasures, and can yield as much as 1000 Euros per kilogram at the local market – and of course only in cash.