In search of the Périgord Truffle: Demonstration of excavation!

Tocane Saint Apre
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In search of the Péri ...

Pascal Bonnefond is a truffle grower in Tocane-Saint-Apre, north-west of Périgueux. With his faithful canine companions Irma and Lumière, truffle dogs, he searches for the precious truffle, the black gold of Périgord, Tuber Melanosporum from December to February. He also looks for the summer truffle, the Tuber Aestivum, which is found from May to August. The truffle is a seasonal product, it can be consumed all year round in processed preparations, but it is during these two periods that it is found fresh, provided you know the subtle art of digging... We take you with us, visit a truffle field in Périgord!

Trufficulteur, a profession, a passion

Pascal Bonnefond has not always been a truffle farmer, his first love is mechanics and he has devoted a large part of his life to pampering motorcycles and rally cars. It all started with a dog. Pascal works in a garage and brings his young puppy Kiki with him. A client (Maurice) arrives one day with a truffle in his pockets (not trivial? Remember, we are in Périgord;)), the dog sniffs insistently the pocket containing the precious mushroom... Maurice amused then suggests to Pascal to make a digging test (for truffles) on its truffle field. On the ground the next day, the dog confirms his skills and begins two new love stories for Pascal: one with the canine breed and the other with the fragrant and suave gastronomic wonder : the Périgord truffle! Today, Kiki is no longer there, but Irma and her daughter Lumière, two Lagotto Romagnolo (an Italian breed of large dogs specialized in caving and hunting waterfowl) are faithful and loved working companions of Pascal, on his 15ha of truffle fields around Toscane-Saint-Apre.

Pascal Bonnefond

Pascal Bonnefond, truffle farmer

Trufficulteur is a random profession: subject to bad weather and the goodwill of nature, this mysterious force which decides whether or not there will be a truffle at the foot of the mycorrhizal tree... You have to have a very large farm, luck and strong backs to live off it. It is for this reason that few are full-time and all year round! Pascal himself, has long remained a mechanic, investing all the benefits of his work to expand his heritage.

  • It is necessary to acquire land with geological and mineral conditions favorable to truffle culture
  • Choose the trees (different species of oak trees that are mychorized, that is to say " contaminated " by the fungus),
  • It is then necessary to maintain the plots with patience and determination, because a truffle oak needs 10 to 15 years of growth, before offering (possibly!) Truffles to whoever can find them.
  • It is also necessary to protect the truffle fields from ill-intentioned souls who may enter them, so each plot is screened so that the fruit of Pascal's labor is preserved.
  • Finally, we must have a digging method, learn, understand and work in concert with all these factors!


Truffle oaks

Plot planted with truffle oaks

Cavage, this subtle art of finding truffles

The digging is done with patience, observation, regularity and tenacity. On a plot, not all the trees are producers of truffles. There is no rule, everything is random and after centuries (the Truffle has been known as such since the Middle Ages), no one yet knows how to get them every time! This is what justifies the attraction for this product: it is rare (and therefore expensive), enigmatic and passionate gourmets for centuries...

The trees are mychorized in nurseries. You can do it yourself but the conditions for success are very doubtful in non-sterile environments... In the nursery, we crush a truffle, mix it with a sterile substrate, not contaminated by other spores, then we plant an acorn. and we cross our fingers so that the symbiosis between the fungus and the roots takes place. Tuber melanosporum (black winter truffle) and Tuber aestivum (summer truffle) live in harmony with the tree, it is not a parasite! The trees are not subject to its presence, which is why the good health of the trees guarantees blooming and (we hope) numerous and plump truffles!


Truffle oaks

Truffle oaks are raised in nurseries, and planted around 2 or 3 years old

To maintain the plots, nothing could be simpler, just mow the lawn and prune the trees. They stay quite stocky, it's their species that dictates this appearance and you don't have to do anything else to keep them healthy! No chemicals on Pascal's plots especially, because these would end up in the truffle, the end product and nobody wants that, right? To ensure the health of these plots and promote biodiversity, Pascal has installed beehives in the truffles. If bees are not directly linked to the production of truffles, they are witnesses to the good health of biodiversity in a healthy ecosystem. Pascal also collects excellent honey from the beehives in his truffle fields.

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To find truffles, 3 solutions:

  • Flies
  • The pig
  • Dogs

Searching for truffles on the fly is an ancestral method. Very specific oblong and golden flies gather around the roots of mycorized trees. To find truffles, then you have to find the Epicurean flies, which lay their eggs near ripe truffles. You put on your glasses (because you need good eyes), you grab a stick that you pass with wide movements horizontally on the ground, to get the flies out. Some still do this, but it is not the fastest method for professional truffles.


Liodes truffles

It is not only flies that love truffles, there are also Liodes cinnamomea, small beetles that nibble on the truffle and make it lose its value.


Looking for truffles with a pig is also an “ old-fashioned ” method. In the Périgord farms, families had several animals in their backyard, including pigs and more precisely pigs! Because it is rather the sows who find the truffle they love. It is a folk method because to move a pig from one plot to another on foot, it is tedious is quite long (and uncertain because it is a little stubborn animal)!

The truffle dog is therefore the best option, the most widespread. To train a puppy to look for truffles, it is an exciting adventure. You have to start as soon as he leaves his mother's womb. The puppies are isolated, then when they are hungry, they are made to taste and smell a little truffle, before bringing them to feed near their mother (rest assured, all this is done with kindness). Thus, they associate the relief of hunger with the smell of truffles, it is a comforting scent that they will actively seek if they are then trained to do it, like a game!


Truffle dog

Truffle dogs, bred with love, that's all it’s true!

Truffle Dog

A bitch love, here is Lumière

Look for truffles at the foot of the oaks

We set off with Irma and Lumière on one of Pascal's truffle plots. Here, we are not joking, truffles are the final product, resulting from several years of care and patience with the truffle trees. The plot is fenced and protected by cameras, you can't enter it without Pascal!

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Would you also like to participate in a digging demonstration? Contact Pascal , who organizes tours of the truffle fields which last ½ day in season. The day begins with a midday meal in an Inn, where authentic Périgord products (including truffles) are served, then Pascal will show you around his truffle farm and if you wish, you can buy truffles at producer prices at the end! It takes place from December to the end of February and from May to July. Reservation by phone required. 06 83 35 12 29

More information on this website (click)

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Irma and Lumière are impatient, they love this moment, which for her is a pleasure and serious entertainment. They understand that there is a stake for their master and do their best to find truffles. We will stay 1 hour on site to extract 1 kilo of perfectly ripe truffles from this large plot. The bitches inhale the air and the ground, they smell and find a trail… They follow the trail and if sometimes they let themselves be distracted by competing smells, they very quickly find the trace of the truffle. Pascal has an eye and he knows his trees. Every year, it is about the same who give, even if sometimes he is surprised that a new tree is put into production or that on the contrary another becomes less generous.


We get out of the car at full speed

Search for truffles

We find a lead, quickly


Caving is a pivotal stage, everything is played out between the tree, the dog, this combined with a seasoned eye and on the lookout for the truffle farmer, who plays his economic stability a few months a year, at the goodwill of the elements and luck. When bitches find a serious lead, they scratch the ground, so you have to quickly join them. With a small pick (“un cavadou”), Pascal scrapes the ground in search of truffles. Sometimes it is flush with the ground. Sometimes you have to dig, it is buried or even tangled in the roots of trees. With care and delicacy so as not to damage the root network of the tree (this is the most important, even more than the truffle) he takes out the truffle, he observes it and rubs it very delicately. He puts it away without his wallet and continues this ritual as many times as the bitches show interest in it.

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Search for truffles

Sometimes the truffles are tangled in the roots of the trees

Find truffles

I also looked for truffles, look I found the smallest truffle in the world!

Find truffles

Behind, there was a bigger one, fortunately!

Brumale Truffle

Here is another species of truffle, the Tuber Brumale, which has a greener and more pronounced taste, it also does not sell for the same price and cannot be used the same, but some like it very much!

At the end of the morning, we return to Pascal's home who will examine and thoroughly clean this fragrant and black treasure as coal. In the car, he tells me about the time he brought back 5 kilos of truffles and that he had to open the windows of his Land Rover, so strong was the scent in the cabin!! You will take it at his word, if you have already had a piece of truffle in your kitchen for a few days: its fragrance perfumes the whole room!

A productive morning!

Cook the truffle, buy it and store it

Truffle? It is one of the simplest gastronomic wonders to taste… Simply grate it on a slice of good buttered country bread. It is delicious with salted butter, because the salt is a flavor enhancer which will naturally ennoble that of the truffle. If you don't have one, add a few grains of salt to your toast.

Grated black truffle

Simply grated on a toast

Taste truffles

To taste with friends, with a good champagne or a wine from Bergerac Duras!

Another very countryside recipe and so fantastically simple: Make a coarse mash of potatoes, add a knob of butter and finely cut (with the peeler) a few slices of truffles, it's a delight for the eyes, a delectable fragrance and a delicacy tinged with luxury that we will not sulk...

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Last idea: with eggs! The truffle goes well with the egg: casserole, poached, fried or boiled, the creaminess of the yolk is in symbiosis with the truffle. Crack a few eggs, beat with a whisk to fill the preparation with air and relax with good cream (just a little), cook for a few tens of seconds, keep well moist... Finely grate the truffle on the hot scramble, the small slices will dance with pleasure with the steaming eggs!

To keep the truffle , line a waterproof box with absorbent paper and lock it inside, put it at the bottom of the refrigerator. Warning! The truffle does not keep for long… taste it as soon as possible. You can also lock it for 24 hours in an egg box, it will delicately perfume the eggs, through the porous shell.

Finally, let's talk about price before we leave: yes, the truffle has a cost, but I hope you now understand why? We do not come across it by chance! Count 700 to 900 euros per kilo, depending on the year. Do not be afraid, for a beautiful piece, it takes 20 to 30 euros to treat around 4 to 6 guests. What a great gift, instead of a bouquet of flowers or a bottle of wine to your loved one or when you are invited to friends! Treat yourself, buy a truffle instead of a daily menu at the restaurant on Sunday and treat your taste buds!

To make sure you're buying quality, trust the producers, visit them directly, or stop by a controlled truffle market, in season. To choose, run your odora, a good truffle must have a powerful smell! Remember: the winter truffle is from December to the end of February, the summer truffle is from May to August. Outside of these periods, there are truffles preserved in vacuum-packed sachets, or canned or incorporated into preparations such as foie gras, pâtés, Périgueux sauce, oil, etc.


See you soon and enjoy your meal!


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