The black diamonds of Drôme Provençale Jack Montgomery | Posted: 24 March 2019

Routefinder, photographer and keen foodie Jack Montgomery went in search of culinary treasure in a quiet corner of France, and snuffled out some truffle trivia...

Self-guided walking holidays in France

During dinner under the stars on a balmy September night near La Garde-Adhémar in the French region of Drôme Provençale, our hosts regaled us with captivating tales of a local treasure. From that moment, as we journeyed from Grignan to Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, we voraciously collected snippets of information about a holy grail of gourmet gastronomy, la truffe noire  – the black truffle.

Here are some funghi facts (or Tuber truths) we picked up along the way:

  • The Tricastin / Pays de Grignan area is the world's main source of black truffles.
  • Like mushrooms, truffles belong to neither plant nor animal kingdoms. They reproduce through spores.
  • In France, the word truffe  can also mean a person who is naïve (a polite way of putting it).
  • During the Middle Ages, la truffe noire  was considered a no-no by the Church. As they were “black as a damned soul”, eating truffles was considered to be dabbling with the devil.
  • They exude an aroma of dry mushrooms, dank forests and humus – not the chickpea and tahini dip, but the organic whiff from natural woodland waste.
  • Dogs or pigs are used to snuffle out truffles, with dogs being preferred. Pigs are more reluctant to hand over their haul.
  • A hundred years ago, France produced 1,320 tonnes of black truffles each year. Now annual production is down to 20 to 46 tonnes.
  • They're reputed to be an aphrodisiac. One school of thought was that, as sows were especially attracted to black truffles, they must exude a similar aroma to male pigs. That seems to me to be a roundabout way of saying that men are like pigs.
  • Black truffles are harvested between November and March. Although best eaten fresh, they freeze well and so can be enjoyed all year round.
  • Truffles and eggs go well together. A local recipe for Oeufs Saint-Valentin involves putting 20g of black truffle and four eggs in a sealed container for 48 hours. After that, soft-boil the eggs as normal. When you crack the shells, both aroma and taste are intoxicating.

Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, the culmination of Inntravel’s Secret Provence journey on foot, is a mini truffe noire  kingdom. One walking route from the town follows a truffle trail, while the Maison de la Truffe et du Tricastin is a fascinating shrine to the black treasure, and a good place to pick up truffle-flavoured products. Expect to pay around €20 for 16g of canned black truffle, while a tub of truffle pâté should set you back €5.50.

Related Holidays

Secret Provence

Hill-top villages, fields of lavender and vines, and ancient monuments surveying an undulating tapestry of green – Drôme Provençale is the Provence the French keep for themselves.

More about our self-guided walking holidays in Provence >

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