What is a Truffle ?

Truffles do belong to the mushroom group and are fruits produced simply when mycelium bacteria come in contact with the roots of trees like Oak, Hazel, Hornbeam to name a few.
I think many people  wish it was that simple and the usual terroir, climate and temperatures make growing truffles very interesting and challenging.
New Zealand’s emerging Trufferies means we too may be able to purchase the elusive truffles in the future. Who know’s when we could have our own truffle markets like the famous ones in Alba – Italy or many regions in France from Dorgogne to Richerenches in Provence from November to March.
Varietal names like – Burgundy, Brumale, Perigord, Borchi, Summer, Alba and Borchi hopefully will become familiar and learning how to distinguish varietals, develop a taste and gaining a few new skills to cook with truffles will be essential.
My tour group spent most of a day with Claire and Hubert from Montpelier,  Beginning our morning at Claire’s brother Jean Louis ‘Clos’  – which means a property surrounded by closed walls. He has repaired the walls as well as topping them with high fencing to keep out pigs and 3 years ago planted grapes, rows of raspberries and currants, raised beds for vegetables and introduced 6 varieties  of trees inoculated with mycelium to produce truffles.  Jean Louis was very excited, because the following week he was to be picking his first grapes and hopefully get 1 barrel of wine –  about 300 bottles .
Under a group of old pine trees we became acquainted with Hubert’s Truffle dogs – an Italian bred called Lagotto Romagnolo which are the perfect dog to seek truffles.
They followed their noses to track the elusive perfumed truffles planted by Hubert for our demonstration.
Meanwhile in her usual attention to detail and perfection Claire was ready for our workship in the basement of a council building in the busy little village of Pommard 10 minutes away.
Over the next 3 hours my tour group tasted, cooked and ate a magnificent degustation lunch. Every course of course had truffles including black truffle ice-cream and truffle in salted – butter caramel.
Claire and Hubert both come from Botany backgrounds and both were flirting with truffles. They are now experts and in high demand,demonstrating all over France.
In France truffles have always been available in local forests and many people including Claire have been bought up truffle hunting with grandparents and used to eating them.
My tour group enthusiastically involved themselves in the new world of truffles and came away  happy with a new respect for these elusive, rather expensive, lumpy  fruits.




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