Part of the Luberon Coeur de Provence Tourisme office team had the chance to meet Alain, Véronique and Lucie, who opened the doors of their nursery in Cabrières-d'Avignon for us. This is an opportunity for us to learn a little more about this exceptional product!
Did you know that? It is in the Vaucluse that the cultivation of truffles was born... it has been the first producing department in France for a long time! Thanks to its Mediterranean climate, it is here that the famous and best black truffle “tuber melanosporum” is produced. The “rabasse” in Provençal is so appreciated for its perfume... It is in January and February that the winter truffle reaches maturity.
The Moine nursery specializes in the production of truffle plants controlled and certified by the CTIFL (Interprofessional Technical Center for Fruits and Vegetables). Truffles have always been part of their environment.
Arrived at the Moine nursery and warmly welcomed by Véronique and Alain, we headed to the greenhouse where we find several varieties of plants inoculated with “tuber melanosporum”, the winter truffle!
It is with passion that Véronique explains to us what is important in truffle production: to produce plants with good mycorrhization. Passionate about truffle cultivation, Alain and Véronique were interested in the production of truffle plants under mycorrhization controlled by the CTIFL. “For us, it is essential to have a certified and well-mycorrhized plant. It is a laboratory that will tell us if the batch is good, if the batch is pending or if the batch is to be destroyed”.
“The first check is done individually on each truffle with which we make our substrate. We mainly produce winter truffles, called “tuber melanosporum”. Then the plants are checked.”
Then comes the control of the mycorrhization of the plants, which will certify the lots. The control of the plants is done by sampling on plants of 1 or 2 years old. The roots of each plant are examined. Depending on the quantity of mycorrhiza present, lots of plants well mycorrhized and respecting standards of size and diameter at the collar are accepted. (Source: CTIFL) “For example, take holm oak: if it is not mycorrhized melano, it will be a nice holm oak, it will never produce truffles.” Only compliant plants will then be labelled for sale as truffle plants.
“We have several samples per year in the greenhouse to control the roots. This year, the controller came in September, October, November, January and will come in February, at our request. It is important to produce very well mycorrhized plants. The only way to guarantee customers that the plants are good is to have them checked and certified. The CTIFL certifies 11 truffle farms throughout France, including 3 in the PACA region. Before, there were none in Vaucluse and today, we are the only ones to offer certified truffles. It's a guarantee of security, both for professionals and individuals.”
“We have a lot of planting, and we are happy because most of them start in the 3rd year. This year on a 3-year-old plot, 7 trees produced pretty truffles. It motivates us and shows us that the soil is good, that our work is good. We're super happy! To give you some figures, from 2019 to 2020 on all the nurserymen certified by the CTIFL 180,000 plants inoculated with tuber melanosporum were checked, 115,000 went on sale and were therefore certified, the rest was destroyed. Certification allows us to protect ourselves, it's essential security!”
“The summer truffle, also called “tuber aestivum” is much cheaper than the winter truffle: from 200 to 300 €/kg. It is less fragrant, less rare: it is the same work as for the winter truffle, but its production is more important. It is a very good product, it allows us to make ourselves known on the markets in the summer! Many tourists ask us if we also produce winter truffles. We then explain that the winter truffle represents the majority of our production! It is thanks to this summer truffle on the markets that melano is becoming known. It is a valuable product but still different from the winter truffle. We will be able to treat ourselves with a few simpler recipes: for example on a toasted toast. We are present on the Coustellet market on Sundays and we offer direct sales: it works great!”
Now is the time for us to go on a demonstration of cavage... But do you know what it is? This moment of complicity between man and dog... and where the truffle is finally revealed! Their daughter, Lucie, is accompanying us with Candy, their dog to collect the truffle! “All dogs can do the cavage. There are some who will like it more than others. We get used to them as soon as they are little, we also try to turn so that a dog is not associated with a single master. It's important for him to feel confident.”
We start collecting truffles from November... until March. Cavage is the search for truffles with the help of a trained animal. Today, there are many truffle dogs! It is with Candy that we venture in search of black truffles... Arrived on the plot, neither one nor two, Candy goes to work under the words of Lucie who encourages her! We can see it circling the trees, sniffing out the slightest trace of truffles! When all of a sudden... She starts digging around the first tree... It is with great enthusiasm that we understand that Candy has found a truffle. Lucie rushes to the tree, Candy understands that she has to stop digging. Lucie gently clears it and shows us Candy's find... What a show!
Then come the reward for Candy! Well yes, all work deserves a reward! We followed Lucie and Candy for 45 minutes. 45 minutes of fun, discovery and surprises!
“As you can see on our trees, we adapt a certain size: we keep a lot of low branches; this makes it possible to create a natural parasol in summer to keep a maximum of shade. We prune vines, but we also prune truffle trees, that's important! Then we water everything! We have an individual micro-spraying system for each tree that waters under the foliage of the tree, which keeps you cool if you have a scorching summer for example.” If there are 3 steps to remember, they are the following:
- Tillage in March
- Pruning trees in June
“In March, we work the soil. The truffle is born at least in May from the moment it is 17 degrees in the ground. Then it will grow in size until summer, and then grow to its size. Once its size is reached, as soon as the first cold weather comes, it matures. We shoot on all the plots every day. Every dog goes to all the plots to get used to it. '
“From January, it can be stored for about 8 days, or even slightly longer. When you are at the beginning of the season, the shelf life is a little shorter, it will be 5 days. Once the truffle has been picked up and to keep it fresh, the best thing is not to wash it, just brush it. Then, the ideal is to keep them in a box with rice at the bottom to absorb moisture.”
A collective brand guaranteeing the quality and freshness of tuber melanosporum was created at the end of December 2021: the black diamond from Vaucluse. It brings together 5 committed truffle producers from the Vaucluse, including Véronique and Alain in Cabrières-d'Avignon. We find other producers in Vaison la Romaine, Pernes les Fontaines, Saint-Didier, Saint-Saturnin-lès-Apt whose objective is to promote the best of the black truffle. More information at: https://diamantnoirvaucluse.fr/
Bienvenue à la pépinière Moine de Cabrières-d’Avignon !
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