A. Oak is the most common, but you can sometimes find them beneath hazelnut trees.
Q. Can any oak tree produce truffles?
A. Yes, but it’s rare to find one that does. The soil, rain and sunlight must be in the perfect combination to produce them. Even when you buy saplings whose roots have been given a dose of truffle spores and provide them with the ideal environment, there’s still no guarantee.
Q. Why are they so rare?
A. Every year there are 400,000 new truffle trees with spores planted in France. Yet every year, the gross total of truffles produced in France declines. There are many theories on this: climate change, trees being planted by amateurs and younger generations being less in touch with the land than their forefathers. All we know for sure is that this rare product is becoming even more so with time.
Q. Just how much do truffles cost?
A. Summer truffles are less expensive because they are less fragrant and flavourful than the winter ones. You can expect to pay €100 per kilo if you buy directly from a producer, or €200 at a truffle market. Winter truffle prices vary according to the weather and demand, reaching a peak around Christmas of anywhere from €500 to €1000 per kilo.
Q. What’s the best way to eat truffles?
A. Any dish with some salt and fat will complement a truffle. Some simple ways to experience fresh truffles are shaved on a white pizza (pizza without sauce), with a drizzle of truffle oil or on top of a thinly sliced baguette spread with salted butter. When the truffles aren’t hidden inside a complicated dish, you can best appreciate the aroma, the beautiful marbling inside and the light crispness.
Q. Why do you use dogs instead of a pig?
A. The scent of a truffle is remarkably close to the scent of a female pig in heat, so truffle pigs get really enthusiastic when they pick up the trail. And at up to 150 kilos, they’re hard to hold back. A dog will find truffles for the simple reward of a doggie treat, whereas the pig wants to eat them. And heaven help anyone who gets in the way! They say that you can tell a truffle hunter who has a pig on sight because he’ll be missing at least one finger.