It's known as the black gold of Périgord or the black diamond of gastronomy. It hides under the wild oak and hazelnut trees of the Dordogne valley: the Périgord black truffle. It's so discreet that you won't know all its secrets. Here's some information on how to harvest them and sell them on the markets of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region. Or how to combine tourism and cuisine.
What are Périgord black truffles?
The Latin name for this mushroom is Tuber Melanosporum. In ancient times, the Périgord truffle was considered to have therapeutic and even aphrodisiac qualities, but today it is used mainly in cooking. They are highly prized by gourmets for their distinctive flavour.
Harvesting black truffles in the Dordogne valley
Harvesting or cavage (the search for the truffle) takes place from the mid-November to mid-March in the truffle fields of the Dordogne, from Sarlat to Sorges, via Montignac-Lascaux.
Cavorting with a dog or pig
The pigs are replaced by dogs trained to find truffles in a truffle field. Once he has spotted one, he scratches the ground. This is when the "caveur" comes into play: the truffle farmer digs into the earth with a "cavadou" or truffle pick. This instrument enables him to extract the black diamond very delicately. Harvesting takes place in the morning or evening.
Some use another technique "to find the truffles you're looking for. All you have to do is spot the little bumps on the surface of the earth that are formed by the growth of truffles. It takes observation and practice, but this method is also used in the Dordogne valley.
On the trail of the fly
And do you know the Suillia fly? If you follow it, it can also indicate the presence of this dear mushroom. In fact, it settles not far from a truffle to lay its eggs. So if you're in the Périgord on a sunny winter weekend, you can try your luck, even if this technique is much more random than the others!
Where can I buy Périgord truffles?
If you don't have the patience, the time or the right to pick truffles (because yes, it is regulated), there are some favourite places in the Dordogne valley to find them: the farmers' markets !
Markets in the Dordogne
The market season kicks off every year in mid-December. You have until the end of February to do your shopping in a spirit of sharing and good humour. And don't worry if you don't know anything about truffles: the truffle growers will give you all the tips you need to recognise a quality truffle.
This is a great way to combine tourism and gastronomy. With the market taking place in the morning, you can then visit one of these typical villages in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
- Sainte-Alvère truffle market
- Montignac-Lascaux truffle market
- Sarlat Truffle Market
And in the Lot :
- Lalbenque truffle market: every Tuesday from the 1st Tuesday in December to mid-March;
- Martel Truffle Market - Foire au gras ;
At these markets, you can watch the experts sorting the truffles. This will give you a better understanding of the mysterious world of truffles. Tuber Melanosporum ! The truffle-growers explain how to dig truffles in the truffle-field, as well as the best recipes for sublimating the product.
Other places to buy Périgord truffles
And if you're particularly fond of Périgord truffles, go to Sarlat which becomes the truffle capital for a weekend in mid-January. From morning till night, events celebrate this unusual product. Périgueux also has its truffle festival!
How do you choose a good Périgord truffle?
First clue: are the truffles ripe?
When the truffle is ripe, it is a beautiful black colour. But for it to be perfect, it must also be streaked with white veins. If you are presented with a grey or white truffle, you can set it aside: it is not ripe. And if it's completely black, that's not a good sign either: it's had a cold snap.
Second clue: is the truffle clean?
Soil can hide imperfections: don't hesitate to choose truffles that have been brushed.
Third clue: is the truffle firm?
Once you have observed how the truffle looks, you can touch it: it should feel firm under your fingers. If it's too soft, it's not a good sign: it must have frozen.
Fourth clue: do truffles smell good?
Now is the time to smell the truffle and take in its distinctive aroma. Don't hesitate to ask the truffle grower for the opportunity to smell.