An Istrian hunt for white truffles

The day before our wedding Zara was enjoying a girl’s day in the nearby coastal town of Rovinj, so I decided to do something special for myself. I embarked on a pre-arranged truffle hunt with my friend Tracy, my father-n-law, Rodney, and his partner, Marybeth, and the closest thing to my kin (as my brothers hadn’t arrived yet), my old friend Sal joined by his lovely wife, Magdalena.

Buzet
Buzet-map2

Buzet is approximately twenty minutes by car from the Istrian hamlet of Motovun and is the epicenter for truffles in the region. The Butoniga Lake, surrounding rolling forests, and atmospheric conditions of the Mirna Valley provide a pitch perfect environment for truffles to thrive in.

Lake

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Truffles exude a chemical that mimicks reproductive pheromones, which is why we find their aromatic properties so irresistible. In turn, making this subterranean mushroom highly priced in the market.

truffles

Animals, particularly pigs and dogs, are able to locate them with their superior sense of smell, digging them up from certain types of trees’ root systems which then disperses their spores to allow for future truffles to grow. In fact, our guide that day explained to us that typically they tend to grow in the same place where they were found, which is not any different from other mushrooms like chanterelles, which is why when people find their foraging spot they tend to keep it that way.

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Truffles, or “tartufi” as they are known locally, are very delicate. Given their volatility, they are best consumed just hours or as long as a day or two after being plucked from the earth (black truffles have a longer shelf life than white ones). And consumed we did. The day of the hunt we visited the Karlić family business where they kindly greeted us with a fantastic array of charcuterie and dishes made with the coveted truffle.

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From left: Sal, Mag, Rodney, Mary Beth and Tracy.
A generous serving of grated black truffle.
A generous serving of grated black truffle.
Scrambled eggs with white truffles.
Scrambled eggs with black truffles. Truffles are typically used in pasta and risotto-based dishes, but can also be included in grilled cheese, topped on sashimi and even used to subtly infuse a rich panna cotta.

Karlic

The Karlić family were extremely welcoming and informative. They even gave me a white truffle to take as a wedding present. Kristina and Radmila.
The Karlić family were extremely welcoming and informative. They even gave me a white truffle to take as a wedding present. Kristina and Radmila.

While black truffles are highly sought after, it is the white ones that are the pride and joy of the region and coincidentally late September marks the start of the white truffle season in Istria. This is one of the reasons why we planned our wedding during this time of year.

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Zara’s dad, Rodney, has been in the Oregon timber industry for over thirty years, and I knew he would enjoy a day tromping through the Mirna Forest in search for truffles.
Zara’s dad, Rodney, has been in the Oregon timber industry for over thirty years, and I knew he would enjoy a day tromping through the Mirna Forest in search for truffles.

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We walked with our guide, Ivan, and his two highly trained dogs, Crnko and Lila, for nearly 30 minutes until we came upon a stream piercing through the middle of the forest.

creek

If a truffle is ready, the dogs can smell its pungent scent, and with many of the roots protruding from the ground it made it easier for our canine companions to search for them.

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The first white truffle we found was decayed and over-ripe, but luckily within the next twenty minutes the dogs were able to unearth two more nearly golf-ball sized truffles.

Sal

It was an unforgettable experience to share with close friends and family and a memory that we can look back on for years to come.

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Happy hunting.

: Jaime

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