Joseph Talon, the discoverer of truffle-growing

Joseph Talon, the discoverer of truffle-growing

Wondering about the origin of words is a very interesting exercise. It often happens that things as simple as a word hide great stories that are unknown to most people. 

Joseph Talon is the person who discovered truffle-growing.  And without knowing it, he also created a word, a concept. Until 1815, no one had used the word "truffle-growing". It simply did not exist.

Joseph Talon

Curiosity, ingenuity and a pig: the keys to discovery

Joseph Talon was a modest farmer in Croagnes, a small village in south-eastern France. Among his meagre possessions was a pig which, one day like any other, brought him closer to the goddess of fortune. As he was walking with the animal, the latter began to run as if he had seen a celestial apparition. It stopped under a green oak tree and dug endlessly as if possessed. Finally, the pig put something round and black in its mouth that Joseph didn't recognize. He was quick enough to catch up with the pig and remove the thing he had dug up from his mouth as if it were hidden treasure. The pig was far from mistaken: he had found a priceless treasure. It was a black truffle Tuber Melanosporum.

A treasure coveted by the elites

At the time, the black truffle was an essential part of the luxurious meals served by French aristocrats. It was only found in the wild and royalty demanded truffles at all their banquets. Those lucky enough to find this precious mushroom were delighted every time they saw their dog or pig running to the roots of a tree. Joseph Talon was not content to celebrate this find. He tried to go further.

Growing truffles: why not try it?

Joseph's pig didn't just find one truffle, but several. And every day. From this daily learning process, the farmer noticed one characteristic that was always present when he dug up a truffle on his land: the truffles were always close to the holm oaks and oaks. What did he have to lose if he planted the acorns of the holm oaks and oaks near where he found the truffles? After all, his land was barren, and he hadn't had a productive crop in years. So, Joseph Talon planted acorns with the hope of someone buying a lottery ticket. And he was patient.

Patience is the key to reaping the necessary rewards

We can't imagine what went through Joseph Talon's mind during the 8 years estimated necessary to produce truffles in such a plantation. How many times did he pass by waiting for the results? Did he lose all hope at some point? Did he ever think, at some point, that it was incomprehensible that this method had not been used before, somewhere in the world?

But his invention worked. About 8 years after planting acorns of holm oaks and oaks where truffles reproduce easily, he got the fruits. Or rather: the mushrooms. The harvest of black truffles was spectacular. Talon may not have believed his discovery: he had achieved something that kings, empires and burghers had never done. And now that he knew the secret, it was clear to him that he would tell no one.

A difficult secret to hide

But hiding a plantation of holm oaks and oaks on a seemingly barren piece of land was not an easy mission to accomplish. Especially when his neighbours saw how Joseph was selling black truffles over and over again, with a regularity never seen before. And then there was the money. The jealousy that this money aroused among his fellow farmers made many wonder where all this fortune came from.

Within a few years, the secret was discovered. And exploited. But no one could take away the merit of creating a word. Joseph Talon invented truffle-growing.

The pioneer of a still mysterious culture

From the beginning of the 19th century to the present day, truffle cultivation has improved thanks to technological and scientific progress. The methods of planting, processing and harvesting have been optimized. But the cultivation of the truffle still hides mysteries that nobody has been able to solve after years and years of study. For example, the white truffle Tuber Magnatum, the most valuable truffle in the world, grows only in the wild. No one has yet succeeded in "taming" it as Talon did with the black truffle over 200 years ago.

A fact that reinforces the incredible story of Joseph Talon: the discoverer of truffle-growing.

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