Did you remember our visit to the truffle market just before Xmas in the nice market of Villebois ? I recently have opportunity to spend an afternoon with Chantal and her nice fellows for a “hunting party”. It has been my great privilege to be there with Chantal, Flo and Masca, as truffle world do like discretion and secret. Truffles fields grow in hidden or well protected places. The tuber melanosporum, latin name of this small mushroom, star of festive tables appreciate mystery above all.
Truffles plantation are rather well protected. The price of this small gastronomic mushroom explains this necessary discretion. After 5′ mn walking on a nice path in the woods, met sheeps and horses and seen footprints of wild boars, we arrived to the security fence of the truffle plantation. 650 green and durmasts oaks, planted in perfect rows. Located on a large limestone plateau as it exists numerous in Charente, the truffle plantation is 15 years old. A drip irrigation system for each tree allows to get truffles even if summer has been dry.
A fine team
Friends of Chantal, natives from next Dordogne place, have given her the passion of truffle. She began on a small area in her orchard, and then has created from scratch this outstanding place. It requires significant time all the year long, as it’s not sufficient to plant trees and wait for harvest time.
She is fascinating with her dogs, the famous truffle-dogs lagoto romagnolo. Thoses italian dogs coming from Emile Romagne near Ravenna, were known as excellent hunters of waterfowls. After the drying out of the swamps they “lost their job” and moved as truffle hunters with great success !
A pleasant game for them
Timeless ritual begins just after Chantal closes the fence : Flo (white) and Masca (grey) run around, play together, eat grass…After 5′ Chantal give a brief order and the two dogs begin their search under the trees. Masca, only 13 months year old and an already great instinct, suddenly stops…. and begins to dig in a hurry. Chantal must react quickly as Masca do love truffle…
Flo, Masca mother, uses an other process. It just stops where the truffle is supposed to lie, and indicates the place with its leg. Then the two dogs wait for their reward before they go any further : they are crazy about small cheeseparts.
Waiting for cheese !
Chantal get down on her knews and very slowly and gently looks for the truffle. To have seen her, I can tell you that it’s a true work of patience and carefully gestures. Look at the video to judge.
Great practice is needed, as on the first sight, I could not make the difference between loose soil and truffle !
Maintenance of a truffle plantation
Trees have to be carefully pruned each year, as sun and light must cross the leaves. Chantal has developped tips and tricks and keep secret the right moment for pruning. The more the tree grows, the more the “brulé” (burnt) widespreads : grass don’t grow at all. This “brulé” indicates the growth of the roots around the tree, and consequently the place where truffles are supposed to be.
And indeed, Chantal mowes several times a year between the rows to keep the truffle plantation in perfect conditions.
Back to her home, Chantal was proud to show me one of her discovery of the past days : a piece of more than 100 gr, a true black diamond !
I loved this awesome moment in nature with the dogs, on a sunny cold winter day just before Xmas. Thanks so much Chantal, it has been a real pleasure to share this moment with you. And I have a lot of progress to do before being an expert !