The truffle farmers of Carpentras await you every Friday morning from mid-November until the end of March. Professionals are invited to go to the Place Aristide Briand near the Hôtel Dieu and private individuals to the Maison de Pays.
8:30 in the morning in Provence. Carpentras wakes up to a misty sky, gripped by a biting chill. In the center of town, the terrace of the Café de l'Univers comes to life with each steaming expresso. A group of bérets carries on heated discussions around mysterious pouches. As you approach the terrace, the air becomes more fragrant. A powerful and persistant odour fills the air and tantalizes our tastebuds. No doubt about it, it's truffles.
It's here in Carpentras that the market for the "black diamond" takes place every Friday morning during the winter months. The market bring together farmers from the region and wholesalers, as well as individuals who have come to initiate themselves, tourists and the old people of Carpentras, supervisors and commentators of the event.
Tuber Melanosporum in Carpentras
Truffle market in Carpentras
Black truffle on the market of Carpentras
The Truffle Market of Carpentras
They sniff, they brush, they may even cut into the mushroom to determine quality: Out of thirty listed varieties of truffles, the tuber melanosporum with its slightly bumpy contours and black flesh subtly veined with white is the one which is traded at the markets.
The Truffles Market is the only one in Provence carried out with such unparalleled discretion. All converation is whispered into the ear! Luckily there are the "oldies" who chat away endlessly, rendering the moment slightly less disconcerting for the tourists.
8:45, the master of ceremonies, dressed in black from tip to toe, walks to the middle of the square and blows the whistle that starts the negotiations. "Around here, we call him the blackbird!". It takes ten minutes, not a second more, for the affaire to be concluded. The market empties as discretely as it filled; the merchants leave with their precious goods. It goes completely beyond us! But patience, the ritual is not over!
Truffle sale at the Market of Carpentras
Harvest of Black Truffle
Searching for the perfect truffle
Weighing in for the sale
We find the same characters, this time back in a café, with their steelyard scales. As it turns out, only the price per kilo was established in the marketplace, according to the product offered and its grower. The actual sale itself is now made with the weighing for the client whom the farmer succeeded in enticing.
The scales are put to the test o determine the wads of bills to be handed over for a pouch.
Here everything is "in cash" please!
It's the custom, and has nothing to do with any tax dodging, given that the black diamond market is, today, fiercely monitored by the Fraud Squad.
In 2015, prices hit a historic low before once again skyrocketing at the end of the year with the Christmas holidays and the scarcity of truffles due to the lack of rain. Those farmers who could not irrigate their truffle fields harvested just a small quantity or none at all of the precious mushroom.
And then, competition is fierce. The truffle is being globalised; it is planted in California, Australia, Latin America and even Morocco. China also produces up to 300 tons of truffles.
But this year, the problem comes from Europe, more particularly Spain where the truffle is sold for 110EUR a kilo or in France where it is at 180EUR!
In the Vaucluse, farmers of the black truffle have planted a lot in these past few years, so the region will be producing more and prices might drop again.
Despite all these ups and downs, the truffle still has a long life ahead!
To gain experience about this mushroom , it is always possible to go "hunting truffles" with Mr Jomar, trufficulturist in Carpentras.
Weighing in for the sale of the truffle in Carpentras
Payment in cash at the truffle market in Carpentras
Rates of the black truffles on the market of Carpentras
Black Truffle of Carpentras
Truffle market in Provence
Marché de la Truffe de Carpentras - Place Aristide Briand - 84200 Carpentras