Every Saturday morning, between mid-November and mid-March, a busy bustling truffle market takes place in Richeranches and here locals gather to sell or haggle over their wares. The local restaurants serve special Truffle menus, which often feature eggs with slivers of the fragrant mushroom decorating the plate. In fact it appears that you can add truffles to almost every dish, including crème brulee. However be warned, these menus are often pricey, as truffles are expensive even in this centre for the delicacy.
Despite the sometimes cold wind as the mistral whisks around the hastily put up stalls and outdoor café tables; the centre of Richeranches is crowded with people. Cars line the streets as you approach the normally quiet picturesque village. Men and women stand around and gossip in the sunshine.
All the stalls are laid out with the local crop of ‘black diamonds’ as they are known, plus a wide variety of craft items, local cheeses, olives, olive oil, and garlic. Whilst people stroll from stall to stall carefully inspecting the produce, before deciding on which is giving the best value today.
The local ‘rabassiers’ (truffle hunters) gather on street corners, often in shabby anoraks and flat caps, secretly hiding their wares and talking in hushed voices as the bartering with brokers and middlemen, over their ‘finds’ begins. You definitely get the feeling that the stalls are there for the tourists and the local housewives, whilst the serious trading business goes on in huddles away from prying eyes.
The cafes and bars are doing a roaring trade and the air is full of talk about the quality of the crop this year.
If you want to find out more about how they find the truffles, you can even go on a pre-arranged tour, with the truffle-hunter and his dog and watch as both man and dog work in partnership. At first the man clears a small hole whilst the dog then follows sniffing away. It is impossible to tell with the naked eye where you might be lucky to find the prized black mushroom. It seems like a carefully guarded secret art and a game of chance all rolled into one. Until at last – a find! Quickly the man moves in to rescue the precious crop before the dog can eat it and then rewards the dog with a small portion of cheese.