Istria is Croatia’s truffle capital. This valuable mushroom grows best in the Mirna river valley, and it can only be found with the help of trained dogs or domestic pigs during a “truffle hunt”.
The prized Istrian white truffle (Tuber magnatum pico) ripens between September and January, and it has an exceptionally intense, pleasant aroma. The summer truffle (Tuber aestivum) grows in summer, and it is the most common variety of dark truffle. The winter truffle (Tuber brumale) has the most intense aroma of all dark truffles, and it grows between September and January. The most valuable dark truffle found in Istria is the black truffle (Tuber melanosporum), which grows from January until spring.
You should buy fresh truffles exclusively when they are in season, paying attention to their appearance and scent. A good truffle has an intense aroma, and should be firm and without any visible damage or holes.
Truffles can also be purchased jarred in a salt solution, as tartufata (a truffle and button mushroom sauce), chopped or ground in olive oil, and combined with oil, butter, cheese, dried meats and various sauces and spreads.
Where to buy truffles
In addition to big supermarket chains, truffles and truffle products can be purchased in specialised shops and delicatessens in Livade, Grožnjan, Motovun, Buje, Buzet, Umag, Novigrad and elsewhere throughout the Istrian peninsula.
Truffle dishes in restaurants in northwestern Istria
Most restaurants in northwestern Istria offer traditional truffle dishes or modern reinterpretations of these dishes. The most common are fuži pasta or other handmade pasta in truffle sauce, sirloin steak in truffle sauce, and cheese and homemade dried meats with truffles. Fresh truffles are usually grated and sprinkled on top of dishes in thin slices. This allows the fullest expression of their intense aroma and flavour, which can enrich any culinary creation.