"Tuber Melanosporum" is the botanical name of this precious mushroom which arouses such keen interest.
It's exacting !
In order to develop, it needs a host tree (oak, hazel), limestone soil and a Mediterranean-type climate. These three conditions come together in the Lot, which is one of the major truffle-producing départements in France.
It's capricious !
It hides in the thin, calcareous soils of the Causse, grows when it feels like it… It likes the company of the holm oak or the pubescent oak. But hazels or chestnuts will do…. Man, obstinate and fond of good things, hunts it with a specially-trained dog or pig. With even greater obstinacy, he even creates truffle oak plantations (truffières) hoping that it will grow… it takes at least 15 years to get a result !
It's the star of wintertime !
Truffle hunting is organised from December to March. This is the moment to visit a "truffière" or to watch "le cavage" (hunting for truffles) with a dog or a pig. Its characteristic scent pervades the markets (Lalbenque on Tuesday and Limogne on Friday mornings). The most famous is that of Lalbenque, which takes place every Tuesday at 14.00.
Ranged along the main street, tables, closed bags and people await. At precisely 14.00 a whistle is blown, the bags are opened a fraction, customers peer in, sniff carefully, and the negotiations begin ! It's like a theatrical performance !
Just mad about truffles
Head for Limogne to meet Marie-France Ourcival !
She shows people around her truffle oak plantation ; you can try your luck at finding some with her dog "Caline" ; she can accompany you to the market or else organise a little tasting for you…. in short, she shares her passion with others, but one thing's sure - after you've spent a short time in her company, the truffle will hold no more secrets for you.
The Lalbenque Tourist Office also organises specific programmes based around truffles.