Fly, dog or pig? In search of truffles

In the Var region of Provence, most truffle growers own private land where they plant oak trees and inoculate the roots of the tree with the fungal spores. At the Domaine de Majastre in Bauduen, truffle hunting with sniffer dogs is also shown to tourists. In principle, all breeds of dogs are suitable for training as truffle sniffer dogs, “Trufficulteur” Tangay Demachy tells us. This was not always the case, because before 1949, many truffle hunters found it too expensive to keep dogs.

In der Region Var besitzen die meisten Trüffelzüchter privates Land, auf dem sie Eichenbäume pflanzen und die Wurzeln des Baumes mit den Pilzsporen impfen. Auf der Domaine de Majastre in Bauduen (Provinz Var) wird die Trüffelsuche mit Spürhund auch Touristen näher gebracht / © Foto: Georg Berg
In the Var region, most truffle growers own private land where they plant oak trees and inoculate the roots of the tree with the fungal spores. At the Domaine de Majastre in Bauduen (Var province), truffle hunting with sniffer dogs is also taught to tourists / © Photo: Georg Berg.

The animals had to be fed throughout the year. The farmers therefore relied on flies. The small fly was an effective indicator of truffle occurrence. Flies like to lay their eggs in places that are free of grass and plants due to the mycelium of the truffle mushrooms. If flies linger for a long time in summer over barren, often stony places near trees, then this place is marked and searched for truffles there later in the year.

In Aups (Frankreich) werden an jedem vierten Sonntag im Januar die Trüffelhunde und ein Trüffelschwein vor der Kirche Sankt Pankras gesegnet. Das Trüffelschwein ist immer ein Weibchen, denn die Sexualhormone eines männlichen Schweins riechen ähnlich wie Trüffel / © Foto: Georg Berg
In Aups (France), every fourth Sunday in January, the truffle dogs and a truffle pig are blessed in front of the church of Saint Pancras. The truffle pig is always a female, because the sex hormones of a male pig smell similar to truffles / © Photo: Georg Berg

After the Second World War, truffle hunting was professionalized. Plantations with oak trees were planted and fenced to protect against wild boars and thieves, and from then on dogs were used. Unlike a well trained and obedient dog, a truffle pig is difficult to control. It is voracious and the truffle farmer must be careful that the pig does not eat the truffle itself. In addition, a pig on a leash is exceedingly conspicuous. Whoever walks with a pig attracts attention and perhaps gives away his best finding spots. Nevertheless, in Aups every year on the fourth Sunday in January the truffle dogs and also always a truffle pig are blessed in front of the church of Saint Pancras.

Der Trüffelmarkt in Aups findet von Anfang Dezember bis März immer donnerstags statt. Der Trüffelmarkt von Aups ist der drittgrößte seiner Art in ganz Frankreich. Hier verkaufen die Trüffelhändler direkt an Endkunden. Woanders sind beim Trüffelhandel meist Großhändler zwischengeschaltet / © Foto: Georg Berg
The truffle market in Aups takes place every Thursday from the beginning of December until March. The truffle market of Aups is the third largest of its kind in all of France. Here the truffle dealers sell directly to end customers. Elsewhere, the truffle trade is usually intermediated by wholesalers / © Photo: Georg Berg

Travel tips around truffles

The restaurant Le Saint Marc in Aups offers an extensive menu around the truffle.
In the museum Maison de la Truffe in Aups there is a modern audio-visual exhibition about the history and cultivation of truffles in the Var region, which is also easily accessible for children.
With the beginning of the truffle season it is possible to accompany the work of truffle dog and trufficulteur. This is possible for example at the Domaine de Majastre.
General travel information about the Var department.

Human encounters and always culinary discoveries are the focus of our trips. At the international photo agency Alamy you can see all photos of Georg Berg about truffles / start of season in Aups / truffle market / truffle search with sniffer dog / truffle in further processing / truffle in the kitchen.

Photos about truffle and truffle hunting

Truffles are among the most precious edible mushrooms. Production in the northern hemisphere is about 70 tons per year. Increasingly, truffle growers have to deal with drought on their plantations and have to irrigate their trees in summer. An oak tree does not produce truffle mushrooms on its roots until its tenth year. Move the cursor over a photo and more information will appear.

More truffles, black, Tuber Melanosporum

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The research trip was partially supported on site by the French Tourism Federation

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