Truffles or Truffes in France, are a group of valuable and highly sought-after, edible underground fungi.
Found in close association with trees, truffes are highly prized as food. They have a smell similar to deep-fried sunflower seeds or walnuts, and are praised for their aphrodisiacal powers. They are held in high esteem in France.
The most saught after fungi is the Truffe Noir or Truffe noir de Perigord (Tuber melanosporum) also known as the Black Diamond and comes from the Périgord region in France and grows exclusively with oak. Specimens can be found in late autumn and winter, reaching 7cm in diameter and weighing up to 100g.
The harvesters of truffe in France are called trufficulteurs. They are patient men, as it can take ten years to harvest their first crop of truffles after planting their oaks. Sometimes they don’t come!! and they still need to use highly trained pigs or dogs to sniff out the best ones.
Production is almost exclusively European, with France accounting for 45%. 80% of the French production comes from southeast France: upper-Provence, part of Dauphiné and part of Languedoc. 20% of the production comes from southwest France: Quercy and Périgord.
The largest truffe market in France (and probably also in the world) is at Richerenches in Vaucluse. The largest truffe market in southwest France is at Lalbenque in Quercy. These markets are busiest in the month of January when the black truffes have their highest perfume. Black truffes on these markets sell between $100 to $600, depending on the quantity and quality of the harvest.
Because they are so expensive, we have normally eaten them within dishes, or when whole truffes have been preserved within oils, eggs or rice, the aroma is left within these ingredients and lingers when you make your meal. They do not preserve for long, use within a month if you store within oil. Pack in rice and freeze, but again, use within a month or they have a tendancy to dry out. You can use the oil on salads and make a rissotto with the rice, the aroma will still be present.