Truffles in Provence

Posted by Anne & Kirk Woodyard – Music and Markets Tours

The winter months are prime time for the “black diamonds”of Provence. The hunting begins in late fall in time for the holiday demand, when prices skyrocket. January seems to be the peak month, when the truffle markets and hunts thrive. Last year we joined a hunt near L’Isle sur la Sorgue, when on a Saturday late in January our friends Xavier and Gloria picked us up here in Aix for the hour plus drive north to meet our guide, Geo of Truffles of the Luberon, and other treasure seekers. We rendezvous at a roadside picnic area, meet and greet, and get back in our cars to follow Geo down a backroad out into the country. There are about ten of us, all French except for Kirk, Gloria, and me.
Geo tells us about the fragrant black truffles of the area, prized by restauranteurs and foodies, and his two dogs, one an Australian shepherd, and the other, who’s just starting to learn the skills of the hunt, a Corsican hound.

The dogs bound off to sniff below the scrub oaks, and soon are scratching at the ground. Geo hurries over as Beirut begins scratching in earnest, and pulls the dog away as he carefully explores the area with his pick. Bingo! It’s a big one! And the reward? Lots of affirmation and cuddles for Beirut…but he does want something more concrete, and sniffs Geo’s pockets. He knows what’s in there! And soon gets his treat.

Geo passes the truffle around – aah – imagine it generously grated over pasta, or risotto, or tucked under the skin of a roasting chicken. I’m getting hungry…

What fun it is to tramp around the countryside, enjoying the views and the fresh air. Across the valley is the pretty village of Saumanes, tucked up against the cliffs. One of the ladies, who knows the area well, tells us it’s worth a visit, with a charming square and church. There are so many beautiful places to explore in France – we could never run out of discoveries!

We all head back to our cars and drive to Geo’s home, where he empties his pockets of today’s “catch” and weighs the truffles. It’s rather a slim haul today, as it has been this season, due to an extremely dry summer. For truffles to grow, there has to be enough rain from June to September, and this year there was almost none. Guess that just makes the prize more valuable and precious!

Neither of our two couples buy any – it’s enough for us to experience the hunt. We’ve smelled the truffles, and have tasted them in several restaurants previously… and now we’ve seen in person where they come from.

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The The best way to describe us (Kirk and Anne Woodyard) is that we’re interested in the stories that make the places we visit come alive.
We’ve visited Europe more times than we can count, lea
rned some entertaining stories there, and met some warm and helpful people who also enjoy the wonders of music and life in Europe.
Between our music-related travels, we split our time between our homes near Washington DC and the south of France. We look forward to sharing these stories and friends and experiences with our Music and Markets guests.
While both of us have experience in organizing travel and music groups Kirk’s background is in project management and competitive writing, and Anne is an accomplished pianist with over thirty years of teaching experience, and a travel and food writer specializing in France and Italy.

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