Richerenches, The Truffle Capital of the World or at Least Provence
The black truffle season has begun, thrilling chefs the world over.
Black truffles are one of the culinary delicacies of France, and their pungent, earthy taste enlivens many a plate. One classic dish is scrambled eggs with truffles, a simple recipe that lets the flavour of the truffles shine through. Another that highlights the truffle’s flavour is chicken with truffle and mushroom cream sauce.
France produces about half the world’s black truffles, mostly from Provence. They are difficult to farm, so most are foraged in nature, especially among the roots of trees like oak, hazel and chestnut. Traditionally, truffle pigs were used to find them, using their acute sense of smell. But pigs have fallen out of favour because they like to eat the truffles they find! Now truffle hounds are the leading animal used, which don’t find truffles tasty.
Because they are rare and hard to find, Provençal truffles are known as black diamonds and are expensive—over $1,000 a pound at retail! With prices like this, it is understandable that truffle hunters jealously guard their favourite hunting grounds, keeping them secret from the competition.
To find lower prices, consider shopping at one of Provence’s weekly truffle markets, which run from November to March. There are ten (10) main truffle markets, and the most famous is in the small town of Richerenches, the self-styled Truffle Capital.
The market is held on Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm, though it is best to get there early. It’s on the Avenue de la Rabasse (rabasse is the Provençal word for truffle.) This year marks the market’s 100th anniversary so it should be lively. It’s fun to wander the market and survey the offerings, sniffing away and then buying if it strikes your fancy. They won’t be cheap, but they will be less expensive than in the fancy shops.
A Special Offering
One highlight of the truffle season in Richerenches is the famous “Truffle Mass” held on the third Sunday of January. It is designed to honor Saint Anthony the Great, patron saint of truffle hunters, and to revere the black truffle. And it is unique because when it comes time for the offering, many congregants put black truffles on the offering plate instead of money.
After the final songs of the mass are sung, members of the Brotherhood of the Black Diamond collect these offerings and leave the church, followed by the congregation. The Brothers solemnly weigh the truffles, which are then auctioned off in front of the mayor’s office, with proceeds going to the church.
La Mess des Truffes
January 21, 2024
The mass starts at 10h30 at l’Église Saint Denis (the doors open at 10h).
For those who do not get a seat in the church, there will be a big screen inside la Maison Templière.
Following the mass and the truffle auction, there is a gourmet feast, with truffles, of course, for approximately 75€. Advanced booking is required.
More Recipes with Truffles
Celebrating 100 Years
At the end of August each year, the Ban des Vendanges occurs in Avignon. This is the official signal to Rhône Valley winemakers that they can begin the grape harvest. In the tiny village of Richerenches, the Ban des Truffes on December 2, 2023, was the official opening of the black truffle market for the 100th year. The market, which started in 1923, is one of the largest black truffle markets in France, with upwards of 700 kg sold during the peak season. Besides black truffles, this town also has the first Knights Templar commandery (circa 1136) in Provence.