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The Périgord black truffle (Tuber melanosporum) is named after the Périgord region in France. Their desirability is due to the unique aromas and flavours it lends to dishes, and for its scarcity.

Descriptions of the truffle aromas that infuse food vary – earthy, musky, pungent are some words that describe this unique fungus. The truffle sits alongside other gastronomic delights such as saffron, caviar and foie gras – such is the esteem of its taste.

Production of the Périgord black truffle has declined significantly. At the start of the 1900’s France produced 1,000 metric tonnes of truffle annually, compared to the current estimated production of 20 metric tonnes. The decline in production has further heightened demand and prices continue to increase.

Many Truffières in France were family owned, with knowledge on the location of the Périgord truffle being passed from father to son on ones deathbed. The start of the Great War (and subsequent loss of lives) meant the knowledge of where truffles were located was lost. This, along with increasing urbanisation and deforestation meant that the industry has never regained the volumes of the early twentieth century.

Today, 80% of the French production comes from south east France, more specifically the Vaucluse and Alpes-de-Haute Provence region, and if you were to visit Richerenches in Vaucluse in January you would chance upon the largest black truffle market in the world.

More information on the truffle industry can be found in Taming the Truffle(2007) by Dr Ian R Hall, Gordon T Brown & Alessandra Zambonelli.