With an average production of 10 tons per year between white and black truffles, Istria is considered one of the regions with the largest collection of truffles in the world.
There are 16 species of truffles although the white and black truffles are the most requested and most valuable varieties.
The White Truffle (Tuber Magnatum Pico) is the truffle par excellence. It was born and raised only in Istria and Piedmont and lives in symbiosis with oaks, willows, lime trees and poplars. It is very aromatic and resembles the smell of parmesan cheese. The harvest takes place between October and December-January.
The black truffle is divided into 3 main varieties:
- Precious Black Truffle (Tuber Melanosporum Vittadini), also known as Norcia or Périgord truffle with an intense, aromatic and fruity aroma reminiscent of chocolate. This is the second most valuable species, after the white truffle. The harvest takes place between December and mid-March.
- Winter Black Truffle (Tuber Brumale Vittadini) which has an intense and persistent aroma with musky tones. Its value is generally half of the prized black truffle. The harvest takes place between January and April.
- Black Summer Truffle or Scorzone (Tuber Aestivum Vittadini), unlike the prized truffle, although similar on the outside, it stands out because it has a dark yellow gleba. It has a mild smell. The harvest takes place between mid-May and late October.
Finally, among the best known varieties, there is the Bianchetto or Marzuolo Truffle (Tuber Borchii Vittadini). It is distinguished from the prized white truffle for its aroma: light at the beginning and tending to take on strong tones of garlic later on and for the dark color it reaches when ripe. It is harvested between January and the end of April.
The considerable presence of truffles in the Istrian valley was discovered by Italian workers at the beginning of the 19th century who were working on the construction of an aqueduct. Having noticed many similarities with the Piedmontese morphology and flora, they hypothesized that truffles could also be there. Researchers and trifolai soon confirmed this theory. Naturally the local inhabitants had known truffles for some time but its value was still unknown. It was regarded as a "stinky potato" and was used to savor poor dishes such as mashed potatoes and fried eggs by scratching it.
Until 1999, the 90% of the Istrian white truffle harvest was exported as “Alba white truffle” at a very competitive price, about three times lower than that of Alba. Having created a strong black market and marketing in the hands of a few who preferred not to share the nature of their business, its value was unknown in the region. Since 1999 the Croatian tourism department has promoted various initiatives in order to increase the culinary culture on the value of the local truffle. Thanks to this maneuver, in a short time exports dropped by 30%, the black market decreased considerably, local consumption increased and so did the value of the truffle which today is able to compete with that of Alba.
The Istrian region of greatest interest for truffles is the Croatian one, in particular in the historic forest of the Serenissima, along the Mirna River in the Buiese region. Unlike Piedmont, where the territories and the fruits present within them are privately owned, the Istrian territory rich in truffles is owned by the State. The license that allows access to the woods, the collection and marketing of truffles is issued to a maximum of 2600 trifolai per year. As we have seen above, each variety is harvested at specific times of the year, in particular that of the black truffle begins when the harvest of the white truffle ends.