Midi-Pyrenees Gastronomy - Quercy Black Truffles
With a small production of around 3 times a year, Lot continues to be one of France’s main truffle-producing department. Quercy black truffles, the ultimate example of this noble species, are collected in winter in the area around Lalbenque. This village, which is in the Causses du Quercy Regional Nature Park, around 15 minutes from Cahors, itself a Great Tourist Site in Midi-Pyrénées, is officially recognized as a Site Remarquable du Goût, a distinction awarded to places of outstanding food heritage, on account of its truffle market.
An Enigma of Nature
In Lot, truffle cultivation is a tradition that goes hand-in-hand with family farming. This activity is shrouded in mystery: the local saying is that “the more you talk about truffles, the fewer you will find”. The main requirement is a passion for truffle hunting, because you have to wait for around 15 years to see if a young truffle oak is going to produce any or not...
Quercy black truffles develop in the chalky soil beneath the dwarf oaks of the Causses. Nowadays, these are mycorrhizal oaks, trees with fungi on their roots that are associated with the truffle mycelium, thereby increasing the chance of harvesting truffles from under them.
Despite this innovation, how the truffle forms in the ground is still a complete mystery, and there are no guarantees that the harvest, using specially trained dogs or pigs, will be successful. If the oaks are well looked after, if the spring is warm and wet, and if there is a succession of hot spells followed by thunderstorms over the summer, then and only then will the “black gold” be unearthed.
A Taste that is out of this World
Truffles are dug up from the earth, yet they taste like nothing else on Earth. Their unclassifiable nature, their wildness and their scarcity all help to make them a luxury product, whose price fluctuates between €300 and €700 per kilo, depending on the harvest.
Cooking with Truffles
The top chefs love truffles because their complex flavor allows them to come up with creations bordering on wizardry. Who could ever forget the combination of truffles and scallops invented by the great chef Alexis Pélissou in Lot! Yet it is also true to say that a tiny sprinkle of crushed truffle or truffle shavings has no equal when it comes to adding flavor to simple dishes such as omelets, salads or potato stews.