Truffles Stories: The Season Starts

French Truffle season begins

Okay, this is nothing about books, but this weekend, Le French overtook the Book! I was going to a wine dinner at a friend's house and one of the guests had a little gift for me: the first truffle of the season, hand-picked the same morning at his own "truffière" (truffle growing grounds). Just look at it! How I wish you could smell its aroma.

Thanks to this amateur truffle-grower—otherwise practicing osteopath for a living— I also learned a lot about truffle production. First you need a very specific kind of truffle oak tree, especially prepared for truffle production. In April/May, truffles spores attach to radicelles, the tiny endings of the tree's roots. Even though the truffles are a kind of mushroom that develops underground, you can actually see their growing zone around the tree, because the grass doesn't grow there. This zone is called the brûlé (burnt zone). Don't walk on it, it's very fragile! For the truffles to reach full maturity, normally in January, they need sun and water. Indeed, even though they grow underground, truffles like to bathe in warm sunshine, which is why you need to trim the oak trees regularly. But truffles also need water, traditionally from summer storms. The thing is, we had a very dry month of September, so said-amateur-truffle-grower had to water the grounds because if a truffle doesn't get water for 3 weeks in a row it might die. Oh horror of horrors!

So, why did I get one so early in the season? Well the grower was quite surprised too, but as I had asked for a truffle, he had set out with his dog that morning just in case. And he was very pleased to see that some were already ready. So was I! 

But now, what to do with the truffle? Well that's another story. We cut it in thin slices before putting them in a sealed plastic bag and then in the freezer. Actually, you also put the bag in another sealed container because otherwise, the very strong truffle aroma would spread to all the other frozen food. Yes, it's that strong! Freezing is a very good way to keep a truffle fresh until you are actually going to cook with it. Mind you, we didn't hoard it all away. In fact, we put some tidbits in a container with some eggs, and waited for a day after which we made a simple omelette. Truffle aroma crosses through the egg shells flavoring the eggs. Then, we sprinkled the omelette with chopped truffle.

Do you have truffle stories to share?

Getting back to books, here are two truffle-related mysteries.