MA TERRE PREMIERE, Gentillou, 24140 Saint Martin des Combes
At least since antiquity ! Sumerian clay tablets dating from 3,700 B.C. already mention the truffle. It is also said that in ancient Egypt, Pharaoh Cheops was fond of it and had prepared dishes based on truffles for his guests from abroad. Then in the Bible, where the «apples of love» that Leah, Jacob’s wife, disputed with Rachel, around 1700 BC, could correspond to truffles. For the Greek philosopher Theophrastus (4th and 3rd centuries B.C.), truffles were produced by autumn rains accompanied by thunder. In the Roman world, which especially appreciated the truffles of Libya, Cicero (106-43 B.C.) thought they were «children of the earth». Plutarch (50 - 125 AD) says that the truffle is generated by lightning itself: «Because during thunderstorms, flames come out of damp vapors, what wonder that lightning striking the ground gives birth to truffles, which do not look like plants». As for Pliny the Elder (1st century AD), he considered them as «calluses of the earth» while Juvénal was so enthusiastic that he "preferred that he lack the wheat rather than the truffles".
In the Middle Ages, the truffle will be ignored, forbidden. It remained the food of wolves, foxes, badgers, pigs, wild boars and rats. Could not we see in it the work of the evil one ?Some people thought the truffle was «as black as the soul of a damned».
It was the Renaissance that revived the taste of good cuisine and the truffle went to conquer the first rank among the most refined dishes. In the 16th century, King Francis I reintroduced them to the court. They were thought to have aphrodisiac virtues! the truffle will be eaten in large numbers. It will be present at all meals, the black truffle finds its titles of nobility. Black diamond became a luxury product under Louis XIV at the end of the 17th century, and was marketed as such from the 18th century. The black truffle will benefit from all kinds of rumors. The Montespan considered it to be an aphrodisiac and made it widely consumed by King Louis XIV when he weakened. Madame de Pompadour, favourite of the beloved one of Louis XV, loved the soup of truffles and celery, sprinkled with cups of amber chocolate. This way of preparing the truffle «heated minds and passions».
In Italy, in the 18th century, the Piedmontese truffle was considered a delicacy by all European courts. Foreign guests and ambassadors visiting Turin were invited to hunt them. Hence perhaps the habit of using for the search for an elegant animal like the dog, instead of the pig, used especially in France.
Truffling, in the sense of "Culture", took off at the beginning of the 19th century. Thanks to Joseph Talon, who around 1810, near Apt in the Vaucluse, had the famous idea of planting acorns harvested under producing truffle oaks. It is for this reason that Joseph Talon is considered the father of modern truffle culture. Many harvesters have imitated this practice by planting several thousand truffle trees, especially in the southeast. This development was greatly aided by the crisis in French viticulture. Indeed around 1880 the national vineyard was devastated by phylloxera while the limestone and well exposed soils of the various vineyards lend themselves perfectly to the delicate culture of the black truffle.
Object of scientific research, it was analyzed by the Italian mycologist Carlo Vittadini in 1831 who gave it the binomial scientific name of Tuber melanosporum.
At the same time, it reached its greatest fame and reached its peak. Finally cooked for itself and for its delicate flavor, it is of all cards. In 1873, the French harvest was enormous: it reached about 1600 tons annually (Basses Alpes, Drôme, Quercy, Périgord and Touraine). In 1890, 75,000 hectares were planted with truffle oaks. In 1825, the gastronome Brillat-Savarin gave them the nickname of «diamonds of the kitchen» and said, «Who says truffle pronounces a great word that awakens erotic and gourmand memories in sex in skirt, and gourmet and erotic memories in sex with a beard». Brillat-Savarin loved truffles, especially with poultry. For Jean Anthelme, the recipe and proportions are quite simple. To make a truffled poultry, you have to take a nice poultry of 2 kilos and 2 kilos of truffles. Simple and terribly effective !
At the end of the 19th century, world economic history was marked by the industrial revolution. The rural exodus inherent in the industrial revolution has depopulated the countryside. Because of lack of maintenance and the scarcity of livestock herds, the forest environment gradually closed. The loss of life associated with the First World War exacerbated rural desertification and the disappearance of traditional knowledge.
As early as the 1956 Treaty of Rome, Europe set itself the goal of food self-sufficiency, which led to an agricultural revolution. Intensive cultivation, excessive mechanization, and intensive use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides have disrupted the delicate ecological balance in favour of truffle development.
Thus, from the end of the 19th century to the 1970s, French and world truffle production was exhausted.
From 1970, the French world of truffles was organized. No one lived exclusively on harvesting the truffle, but the additional income from this activity aroused interest. This rediscovery of the black diamond is accompanied by the establishment of important scientific research aimed at discovering its secrets.
INRA has come to the rescue of the industry. The results of this approach make it possible to develop the mycorrhizal plant. After several technical improvements, the process developed by INRA gives satisfactory initial results. The technique consists in providing the inoculum in the form of a preparation based on truffle spores obtained by grinding put in contact with the roots of young plants.
All plants sold under INRA or CITFL control are carefully and individually controlled to guarantee the production of the black truffle of the Périgord. Thus each mycorrhizal plant purchased is exclusively carrier of tuber melanosporum spores.
These scientific advances have been supported since the 1980s by grants and subsidies (departmental, regional, national and European).
These efforts allowed the preservation of the black truffle of the Périgord. Although much lower than the production of the 19th century, annual harvests can meet ever-increasing demand.
To date, despite all the scientific efforts, she keeps her secrets for the delight of truffle growers and gourmets !