Truffles from Slavonia to complete the gastronomic offer of the region
Photo: Romulic & Stojcic
April 23, 2022 – Slavonia is a region in the far east of Croatia, known for its golden plains, kulen, rakija and truffles…wait. Well, maybe not yet, but yes, truffles could become another reason to visit and discover this region. Although Istria is considered the Croatian queen of truffles, the forests of Slavonia are, apparently, just as rich in whimsical mushrooms.
As Glas Slavonije writes, Željko Labaš follows the situation in the forests of the Bizovac region and its surroundings with great love and attention.
Truffles were sought after in this region as early as 1777.
“Due to its geographical position, it is understandable that researchers from Istria were the first to discover the value of truffles, and I would say that they also had good marketing, so they raised their white truffles to the level worldwide and are capable of pricing from one hundred to several thousand euros per kilogram, depending on the quality. However, although the first written record of truffle hunting in Istria dates back to 1924, Slavonia has a great advantage, as the governor Austro-Hungarian Imperial Otto von Tauben mentioned the search for truffles in this region in 1777,” Labaš reveals.
According to him, when our ancestors took their pigs to graze in the forests of Slavonia, they noticed that the pigs with their extraordinary sense of smell, in addition to acorns, found “tubers” and ate them with great pleasure. And although there was no particular reaction in the region, the Istrians decided to bring dogs from Italy to look for truffles and start a big business.
A few years ago, however, there was a shift in searching and searching for truffles. The Istrians have kept their brand of white truffles, but the enthusiasts of the Pannonian region from the Sutla to the Danube have come to their senses and confirmed that the Pannonian forests are richer in truffles than Istria, especially black truffles. Željko Labaš says Varaždin County went the furthest and, at the request of the Novi Marof Tourist Board, funded four months of research during which it was determined that there were up to four black truffle species in Kalnik and surrounding forests. During the Boletus Days festival in Paka, there was a demonstration exercise for finding truffles, and these mushrooms were included in the gastronomic offer, which was particularly popular with Germans, visitors to local holiday homes. The search began in Petrinja, through the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, where the Russula Mushroom Association managed to find truffles.
The poor man’s truffle
“Veterans of the Homeland War joined in the search for the truffle because, they say, there is no better therapy for PTSD – outdoors, active, with your best friend, a dog, enjoying an unparalleled sense of freedom.I must also mention Matija Josipović, the author of several manuals and a great connoisseur of the Kutina – Novska region.The truffle connoisseurs closest to us are Hrvoje Knežević from Našice , who works with the Mushroom Association on a beautiful and well-attended exhibition of forest mushrooms from Slavonia, and Darko Adamović from Koška, whom I worked with for years and he always had beautiful mushrooms, chanterelles and black trumpets. I specify this information because, in Europe, these black trumpets are known as “poor man’s truffle”, since they have the same effect as the famous Istrian white truffle, which is considered an aphrodisiac” , explains Labas.
Unlike porcini mushrooms, truffles can also be grown artificially on the roots of hazelnuts or hornbeams, which requires a lot of knowledge and patience.
“It took us a whole century to understand the richness of Slavonia since the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. All this, thanks to persistent enthusiasts – from the best wines to ancient bovine species, today we can complete the beauty of Pannonia with the addition of truffles to its gastronomic, touristic and recreational offer”, comments Labaš.
When it comes to finding this valuable and expensive delicacy, Labaš prefers specially trained dogs.
“All hunting dogs can be trained to look for truffles, but the Lagotto Romagnolo breed is the most skilled. These dogs have a long history of hunting since the 15and century like the so-called water dogs that pulled hunted game out of the water. At some point, someone realized that due to their exceptional sense of smell, they could also be used to search for truffles. The price of a Lagotto Romagnolo is acceptable nowadays, starting from 500 euros. These little puppies with big shaggy eyes are incredibly lively and adore their owner and their families. Their training is a little different from the training of dogs for mines and narcotics. It consists of several phases, and from the beginning the owner must be with the dog at all times. An introduction follows the forest, the smell of the truffle and how to act when you find it. Training is the most expensive part, so the price of a well-trained dog looking for truffles reaches that of a good car,” says Labaš, adding that pigs can also be trained looking for truffles because they have a better sense of smell, the downside being that they don’t really like to share the delicious mushroom, and it could be complicated to transport them through the forests.
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