the murky world of truffles about truffles are they worth it? Wines of the Dordogne Valley

The Mighty Truffle

The perfect specimen (c)istockphoto.com Characteristic 'brule' Edouard explains about truffles

A truffle is a mushroom that fruits underground. Just like mushrooms, some truffles are edible and some are not. Some taste ordinary, some are simply divine. The object of our quest is tuber melanosporum, known as the Périgord Truffle aka the 'The Black Pearl of the Périgord'.

Don't confuse this beauty with tuber aestivum (the 'summer truffle', sometimes known as the Burgundy, or English truffle). Melanosporum are available from the end of November to the end of February. Any other time of year you'll be looking at preserved truffles, truffle oil, or lesser species like the Aestivum.

The Melanosporum truffle is formed between April and June, but the growing cycle is triggered by hot periods in July followed by storms in August. All mushrooms are triggered by stimuli, whether temperature, light, or even seismic shock. Our truffles are stimulated by hot weather, but without water in August their growth is halted.

It is impossible to cultivate truffles, but where the right conditions exist, they can be helped along, and the alkaline-rich limestone and climate of the Périgord are perfect. Most truffles these days are produced in 'truffières', plantations of hazel and oak where the trufficulteurs ensure perfect conditions to maximise the yield.

There is a second edible truffle found in the Périgord, the tuber brumale. Roughly half the price of Melanosporum, with a smoother skin and lacking the red 'blush' associated with the more highly prized Melansporum, the Brumale are still highly prized, and we'll have the chance to see, smell and taste the difference.

Focus, Titeuf, focus!  This tree definitely produces truffles Truffle ice cream