Croatian gastronomy: Istrian truffles

What is it that is so mystic and attractive in an underground, at first sight awkward plant looking like potato, that the people are willing to spend a fortune and proclaim it „king of the gastronomy“? Which one is better – the white one or the black one? What exactly are truffles in the culinary world – mushrooms or spices?

These are only a few of the eternal questions that arise at the beginning of every story related to this irresistibly attractive plant. The mere fact that truffles cannot be found above the ground and that are hidden beneath its surface, not so easy to reach, answers one part of the first question.

The dogs with extremely sensitive noses, loyal assistants of the truffle hunters, are used for reaching this precious mushroom. The Motovun Wood and the valley of the river Mirna are the habitat of these extremely rare and highly appreciated species of mushroom. The combination of favorable soil, climate and natural symbiosis with other plants in this area created ideal conditions for the growth of truffles. In Istria, fresh truffles can be eaten the whole year around, the white truffle (Tuber aestivum) season lasts from September to January after which the season of black truffle starts (Tuber borchii). The big white truffle (Tuber magnatum Pico) is the biggest and the most esteemed specie and aside from this one, three species from the group of black truffles (Tuber aestivum Vittad, Tuber brumale Vittad, Tuber melanosporum Vittad) are also present in Istria.

Although in many Istrian restaurants the truffles can be tasted in combination with different main courses and side dishes, the gastronomers will say that truffles give their maximum when they play the main role on the plate. Finally, it is worth mentioning truffles in combination with Istrian fuži or home made polenta as the truffle is here definitely in the first plan.

And as for the story on their aphrodisiac effects…? Well…you will have to find that answer yourselves…:)