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The Truffle King

The renowned black truffle or tuber melanosporum can be one of life’s memorable culinary experiences or a total waste of time and money. Much of what consumers buy has been processed, pasteurized and canned and by the time one gets round to using the tiny boite that cost a fortune, very little is left of the special scent that drives gourmandes mad.

But, thankfully, I live in a region with loads of fresh truffles and one of the largest producers is just a village away. La Truffière d’Uzès is run by fourth generation truffle farmer Michel Tournayre. He farms about 35 acres of truffle trees on the outskirts of Uzès and owns another 80 acres of scrubland forests in the hills surrounding Uzès. Michel can go on for hours about the finer points of growing this most difficult fungus. Crops can vary radically from year to year and hence the potential benefits. So much depends on the  getting the right weather throughout the year that one needs a solid constitution to make a business out of truffles.  Then there’s the constant threat of being robbed of the harvest at any time.

But all of these obstacles don’t deter Michel, who  opened earlier this year a large reception facility and shop at his domain next to Uzès. He wants to make the truffle into a local star and attract tourists from all over. A typical tour icludes a brief introduction to the world of truffles, then Michel leads a walk  through the truffle park where he’s  dug out a three metre deep trench that lets you see the root system of the host white oak trees.

Michel Tournayre showing the intricate root system of the truffle oak.

And of course the tour would be missing something without a bit of cavage or truffle hunting. Michel has several specially trained dogs he uses to hone in on the scent of the truffle. Then the master has only to gently dig up the famous tuber and reward his dog for all his hard work with a special treat. At the end of the tour participants can browse in the shop at their leisure.

In the future, Michel plans on holding special events, dinners and tastings to the glory, bien sur, of this very special fungus. For more information contact Michel Tournayre at m.tournayre@wanadoo.fr.

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