How to hunt a truffle in France (and it’s not what you think)

How to hunt a truffle in France (and it’s not what you think)

Truffles in Manjimup are hunted with the help of a specially trained canine. Sometimes they don’t make the cut: it’s true, dogs sometimes flunk out of truffle school. There are tales too, of truffle pigs “helping out” with harvest in Europe, sometimes taking out truffles, or worse, a finger in their enthusiasm.

I wonder though, how many people have heard of other ways to sniff out a truffle in time?

In a far flung French village called Mens I had the good chance to attend an open day for a nearby eco-centre, Terre Vivante. After arriving, I wandered the quiet streets and stopped to photograph a quaint little rose garden.

“Vous aimez les roses?”, a voice called from a balcony above.

The voice was Michel, a retired postman who turned out to have a passion for restoring antique radios… and hunting truffles. Cheerily serving me “apero” upstairs, he chatted away about life in Mens. Together with our drinks came dainty little radishes sautéed in butter, straight from the potager beside his roses. I could tell there was more. He leaned in to tell me the big secrete.

Michel planted a trufferie nearby, he whispered with a sideways glance, 18 years ago. It was 12 years before his first truffle formed. That’s a long wait, Michel. Without a truffle dog, or pig, how did you hunt les truffes?

He leaned closer. In that part of France, Michel whispered, there is a very special truffle fly (Suilla pallida). It senses just when the truffles are ripe, and descends to lay its eggs. If you see the fly, you know there are truffles, Michel explained gleefully, swigging the last of his little glass of porto.

The sacred truffle fly… best not be swatting that one!

What else will we learn of dark and dreamy truffle secrets come June 26, at our Pop Up Degustation Lunch? I’ve no doubt Fervor’s  Paul “Yoda” Iskov have some truffly tricks up his sleeve.