Interview with Ivan Golac, a truffle hunter from Gospić
Did you know that there are truffles growing wild in Lika? Yes, it’s absolutely true! They are delicious and there is one hardworking man who is after them.
For Gospić-based truffle hunter Ivan Golac, truffle hunting is a natural fit with his other outdoor loves: walking, mushrooming, and enjoying nature miracles. The dogs he has are companions for these activities and it also helps that he loves good food, so his truffles have a place of pride at his table.
Truffles are a variety of edible fungi growing underground, mostly besides roots of trees such as oak, beech, poplar, willow and elm.
That`s why they depend on animals eating them to disperse their spores. Many species are rare, edible and as they are considered to be delicacies, are among the world’s most expensive foods.
To find out more about this valuable mushroom we spoke to Ivan Golac, a truffle hunter from Gospić who revealed all about truffle hunting in Lika.
How did you become a truffle hunter?
My business with truffles started five years ago but my interest in truffles came much earlier. There have always been stories circulating that there might be truffles in Lika, but no one knew more, so I bought a two and a half months old puppy and that’s how it all started.
Tell us more about the truffle species from Lika.
As you can see, I talk about the truffles from Lika with a special delight – I enjoy them in every sense of the word. Until now, I found around ten truffle species in Lika and depending on the climate where they grow, there are slight differences between them.
Is it hard to train a dog to become a truffle hunter?
Without a dog, especially when you are relatively new to truffle hunting, your chances of finding something are very low. There is a good dog training literature so I`ve trained my dogs on my own but it wasn`t easy at all. It takes a long time to train a dog to become a good hunter – at least a couple of years.
When you raise a good dog, the job becomes much easier and you find truffles faster. Owner-dog bond is very important, with mutual love the success is guaranteed. Now I have three dogs, two males (IGY and HAPPY) and one female (LADY G), all well-trained for truffle hunting.
Aside from the training and care of the dogs the most important are, of course, the actual locations of the ‘hunting grounds’. Tell us more about them.
There are many truffle-growing areas in Croatia and different soil types determine how deep truffles are found. Depending on the season, they usually grow under oak and hornbeam trees.
Tell us more about the art of truffle hunting. How hard is it?
Like any other business, truffle hunting needs experience and it takes a lot of work, renunciation and love to gain it. But you know, Mother nature is perfect and she is taking care of everything.
I`ve been fascinated and immersed in nature all my life, and that experience has helped me a lot when it comes to truffles. I know every part of Lika, every stone and every tree, all the springs and all the abyss … isn’t that enough?
Is it true that you can find truffles all over Croatia?
Over time, truffle will become not only Istrian but also a Croatian brand. Truffles also grow in Slavonia, Dalmatia, Posavina and Međimurje.
Croatia is a wonderful country and the Croatian truffle needs to be presented to the whole world. It would be a shame not to.
Tell us more about the other mushrooms that grow in Lika.
Lika abounds with many aboveground mushrooms like Porcini, Chanterelle, Horn of Plenty, Morel, Hedgehog mushroom, and many more. Most consumed are Porcini, but unfortunately, the least consumed in Lika.
With their unique taste, they should find a home in many Croatian and international restaurants.
Are truffles the future of gastronomy in Lika?
Change doesn’t happen overnight because we need hard work and investment. Why not make truffles a part of the future of gastronomy?
What is your favorite truffle dish? Can you share a recipe?
Truffles are perfect with many dishes and they can be combined in many ways with meat and vegetables. Here’s a great combination with all ingredients coming from Lika!
Veal Schnitzel with mashed potatoes topped with truffle gravy
- Heat 1 tablespoon of butter in a frying pan over medium heat
- Add cooking cream, salt and pepper
- Bring cream to a boil then grate 100g of the black Lika Truffle (tuber Aestivum)
- Leave it for few minutes
- Pour it over meat and potatoes
So why should our readers try Lika truffles?
Because they have a unique taste, smell and aroma. Once you try it, you will never forget the taste!
Truffle species that grow in Lika:
Tuber aestivum (summer truffle) – mild flavor
Tuber uncinatum (autumn truffle ) – appreciated in the gastronomic world for its special aroma and enchanting smell. Autumn truffle grows at the foot of Velebit mountain
Tuber brumele (winter truffle) – strong but pleasant flavor and smell
Tuber Melanosporum – one of the most expensive edible mushroom in the world. It was also found on the slopes of Velebit mountain
Tuber macrosporum – smooth black truffle
Tuber mesentericum – ideal for refining dishes and appetisers
Tuber magnatum Pico – the most prized and expensive truffle in the world. Found in Lika
Tuber Bianchetti or tuber Borchii – I personally adore this truffle. It is quite small with pleasant aroma and perfect for preparing various sauces. It grows mostly in pine forests. Found in Lika
PHOTO: Josip Durdov