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His Highness, the Truffle of Croatia

Updated: Feb 13

Truffles in Croatia

That's right, they are real and they deserve their own post. This comes as another well-kept secret, along with different Croatian delicacies & wines that we like to write about in our food-related articles. The prized mushroom can be found in dense oak woods of the Croatian region Istria, a triangle-shaped peninsula in the northern Adriatic. If you're into funghi and haute cuisine, you should definitely explore it: Istria is home to three sorts of black truffles and the big white truffle. In fact, the world's biggest white truffle (at the time) was dug up here in 1999, by the now legendary hunter Giancarlo Zigante. The piece weighed 1.31kg and made his way to the Guinness Book of World Records. Found in the moist soil of Istrian hinterlands, especially in the Motovun area, truffles are harvested by specially trained dogs and occasionally pigs, since the first truffles were discovered here in 1929.

"And while the Istrian truffle is premium grade, its culture is free of the snobbery, intrigue and astronomical prices found in Piedmont or in the Perigord region of France" - The New York Times

The lush and mystical forest surrounding the Tuscany-like landscape with the picturesque Motovun village

“Šu, šu!”

Istrian dialect translatable as "Go!" or "Search!", is what you'll hear if you spend a day of truffle-hunting with the local harvesters who are hitting the forests basically every day. Puppies trained from an early age, mostly labradors, hungarian vizslas or lagotto romagnolos, zig-zag through the woods and dig furiously when they smell one. It could be a spoiled truffle, a non-edible red truffle (this one indicates the end of the season), or a perfect sample of the valued white truffle. Looks like there is no secret to it, one just needs to be persistent in the search and of course lucky, and eventually, a truffle disguised under a leaf and soil cover will appear.

Wandering through the forests in search of "Istrian gold" sounds like a dream job - especially because the known Motovun forest is a mystical place full of legends - one of them is being home to Veli Jože, an Istrian giant from the allegorical folklore story, who managed to survive and escape a Venetian sinking ship of enslaved peasants, finding his way to Motovun and discovering gold in the area.

Types of truffles & harvesting seasons in Istria

The fine white truffle called Tuber Magnatum Pico the priciest among truffles. It grows from September until January and it's eaten fresh, usually shaved over hot steaming pasta, meat or fish. For this couture gastronomy treat get ready to pay a heavier price tag which depends on the weight, the quality, the season.

Tuber Melanosporum is the fine black truffle that grows from January until spring and is regarded as the best among the black varieties, quite popular in Istria. This truffle is the priciest among the black varieties.

Tuber Aestivium is also a variety of black truffle that grows throughout the year with the price lower than the Tuber Melanosporum's.

The Tuber Brumal variety is also black and grows in the wintertime. It can be found for a lower pricethan the Tuber Melanosporum.

The overshadowed Istrian truffles can compare and compete in quality with the ones found in more hyped regions of Italy and France.

Must-try truffle dishes

Istrian homemade pasta "fuzi" with truffles

A fresh thin dough made with eggs, flour, and water, this type of pasta is specific for its hollow shape achieved by wrapping the diamond-shaped patch around your index finger until overlapped. Fuzi works well with any kind of sauce, absorbing most of it and making every bite juicy and exquisite.

Truffle frittata

When the ingredients are right, the simplest dishes made from only a few ingredients like this one will satisfy your palate in the most pleasing ways. Simply mix the beaten eggs into a bowl and add grated truffle, sea salt and pepper.

Truffle spread

It takes your sandwiches to the next level, enriches your canapés, serves as an amazing appetizer – and it's ready in just five minutes! Mix cheese spread with a few teaspoons of tartufata, add salt and pepper to taste, and spread on toast. Garnish with finely chopped spring onions and fresh chives.

Istrian truffles can be found in almost every fine-dining restaurant across Croatia, as well as in different parts of the world, where the now recognized premium truffles don't need to be labeled as a product from Alba (Piedmont) anymore, which was very common until recently.

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