A Taste of Provence: Black Truffles
Precious as diamonds and even called the same, the black truffles of Provence can be hard to find, but are fun to hunt for and even better to eat. Read on to learn what makes these mushrooms so special, how to find them, and why the best truffles come from the fertile land of this southeastern region of France.
All about black truffles
Round, dark brown, and with the scent of wet earth, fruit, and cocoa, these little truffles grow underground near the roots of trees. They’re recognizable by their almost-black skin, pyramidal cusps, and white veins.
This particular mushroom goes by many names – Tuber melanosporum, black truffle, Périgord truffle, or Diamant Noir (meaning black diamond). Diamond is the perfect term to describe these mushrooms because of their expense, being some of the priciest mushrooms in the whole world. They’ve sold to chefs and food-lovers for as much as $1,200 per pound. Typically, black truffles grow to be no larger than 30-60 grams each, selling between $30-75 US dollars — a much more reasonable cost, but still a luxury product to enjoy in delicious traditional Provencal dishes.
Why does everyone love truffles? They taste simply amazing. By themselves, used to flavor oil, or incorporated into entrees, black truffles are world-famous for their decadent flavor, which is peppery and bitter when heated.
How to hunt for the black diamonds
These mushrooms are hard to find, requiring the perfect soil and tree roots to grow. Their rarity excites many, including professional truffle hunters, or trufficulteurs, who are often aided by well-trained dogs or pigs. For the five months of truffle season, these animals sniff around the bases of trees (often oak, hazel, or cherry) searching for truffles growing five centimeters underground.
If you’re a novice truffle hunter without a talented hunting animal, one main trick for finding these black diamonds is to search for tiny truffle flies buzzing around tree bases. Alternatively, you can follow an expert trufficulteurs at any number of truffle farms in Provence to experience the true hunt.
Why Provence is home to the best black truffles
The vast majority, between 70-80%, of black truffles cultivated in France come from the Vaucluse, a department within the region of Provence in southeast France. An astounding amount! The Vaucluse department is home to the popular urban center Avignon, and many of the best truffle markets during harvest season, which is November to mid-March in Provence.
We love the variety of truffle markets open during this time, offering locals and visitors a chance to speak with mushroom farmers, to learn about their hunting practices, and to smell and purchase these delicious gems. During harvest season, you can find markets all around Provence, open almost every day of the week. Spend Wednesday in Valreas and Friday at the amazing large Carpentras market. In this region, there’s a true respect for the Tuber melanosporum — an excitement that’s best shared at a public market amid old-fashioned weighing scales, baskets of mushrooms, and farmers wrapping their products in paper for happy patrons.
The best Provencal truffle dishes
Try this lovely and traditional French recipe featuring black truffles:
Or try one of these more inventive recipes that have a little truffle flare:
— Roasted turkey with black truffle butter and cognac gravy
Of course, the best way to experience true French black truffles is right in Provence. Journey with us on an amazing food and wine trip through the region known for delicacies and grand landscapes. Provence awaits!