Forget pigs and dogs. You search for truffles with flies. In the documentary ‘Truffle Love’ we step into the world of truffle hunters, traders, growers and chefs who are fully dedicated to this rare fungus.
With a simple twig the truffle hunters walk through the forests and meadows of Provence in search of the ‘black diamond’. In addition to the roots of oaks, for example, because they like to grow there. Young pine trees are resolutely pulled from the ground, because they pose a threat to truffles. Just like global warming, by the way. A good truffle needs stress in the form of cold and thunderstorms and the changing climate could cause the truffle to die out.
The twigs are constantly tapping on the ground and for good reason. Because if flies suddenly fly up by tapping on the forest floor, it could be an indication that truffles are hidden. The hunters drop to their knees and bring a handful of soil to their noses. Truffle present or not? It’s a gamble. Then dig and usually wild boars have been ahead of them. But if the hunter has a prize, the catch is euphoric and even addictive, they say.
Once smelled and tasted, you will not forget the smell of truffle. Even blindfolded you can recognize this strong earthy, gas and musky perfume out of thousands. It transports you. It is well known that truffles are rare. Sometimes it takes up to 20 years for the fungal climate in the ground to produce this black gold, but usually the long wait has been in vain, says Catherine Mure, expert and trader for chef Jacques Marcon (3 Michelin stars). She once planted oak trees to grow truffles herself, but unfortunately not one fungus emerged after two decades. This is maddening, because other growers had a rich harvest after all this time. Nature cannot be forced, as it turns out, and with that the mystery lives on.
Just as known as the rarity is the value of truffles. They are precious. A good deep black truffle (not brown or gray) with white veins costs € 1200 per kilo. There is also white gold and this does not mean Limburg white asparagus. The white truffle is the grand dame of this type of swamp and even rarer than its black brother. The largest white truffle to date (approx. 2 kg) was auctioned at Sotheby’s in 2014 for € 50,000. These amounts sound like music to the ears of so-called poachers. They visit the nurseries without permission that are waiting like open treasure chests in Provence. Fortunately, the local police regularly check the orchards and often catch the truffle thieves. If they find anything at all.
‘Truffle Liefde’, the new documentary by Jascha de Wilde and Ben Hendriks after ‘Passage’ from 2017, shows the intense journey from idolizing, searching, harvesting and trading to the kitchens of renowned French restaurants and even the church. It is a pity that there are no fragrance cartridges for televisions, because a documentary like this one asks to stimulate the sense of smell with the perfume of this special fungus and the sweet landscape of Provence.