Famous Croatian produce and where it comes from
Every great Croatian dish starts with great produce. All across Croatia, farms, families, and sometimes just Mother Nature, produce incredibly special and tasty fruits, vegetables, herbs, fungus, and edible flowers that will blow your mind.
Some regions, counties, and villages are known specifically for what they produce. These crops are so special that they even hold festivals in their honor.
In this post, we focus on 14 exceptional culinary treats from all over the country including where to find them, why they are worth your taste buds, and when you can party with the locals at the festival. Naturally, all of this produce is very seasonal, so use our guide to ensure you get the best when it’s the best.
Jump to a produce:
- Wild asparagus
- Hvar’s lavender
- Istrian Malvazija grapes
- Istrian truffles
- Kornati’s wild sage
- Lika’s potatoes
- Mali Ston’s oysters
- Neretva’s tangerine
- Pag’s sea salt
- Varaždin’s cabbage
- Vrgorac’s strawberries
- Chestnuts from Učka
- Šarac garlic
- Zadar’s maraschino cherries
The facts are these…
Famous Croatian produce and where it comes from
Place of growth: Dalmatia, Istria, and Croatian coast in karst and rocky areas, at the edges of forests, and in fields
Harvesting: February, March, April, May
The reason it is special: Wild asparagus has a slightly bitter and spicy taste with a thin, tender stalk. It is considered a delicacy resulting in prices as much as up to 27 euros per kilogram. People often call them carsko povrće, which means imperial vegetables. They are ideal for preparing frittata or omelets (dishes with eggs), spring salads, soups, pasta, and risotto.
Divlje šparoge also have many health benefits. They are good for the liver, kidneys, and lungs, and are also ideal for weight regulation.
To pick wild asparagus on state property, you must first get an annual license from Hrvatske šume, which is free of charge. Be careful when picking asparagus because they often share their habitat with snakes. The best time to hunt for their stalks is early morning after rain. They are known to grow very fast overnight.
Events: Fešta od šparuga in April, Lovran (Istria)
Place of growth: Island of Hvar (Dalmatia)
The reason it is special: The smell of a Hvar-origin lavender oil is sweet and honey-floral. Lavanda can be used for making lavender ice cream, essential oils, skincare products as well as many other applications.
The tradition of growing lavender on the island of Hvar started in 1928 at Velo Grablje. Over the years, the production of lavender oil has become the main source of income for its citizens. Velo Grablje received the status of eco-ethno, which is a status given to villages that are “economically and ecologically sustainable”. The lavender tradition survives thanks to tourism.
Events: Festival levande in June, Velo Grablje (Hvar)
Place of growth: Istria
The reason it is special: Istarska malvazija (Istrian Malvasia) is a type of white grape that gives lush growth and high yield. Malvazija has a pleasant sweet taste and it is very juicy. It is well resistant to fungal diseases and collects sugar well, which is why it is used to produce Istarska malvazija, a quality dry wine. Malvazija is rounded and harmonious with a note of freshness and acidity. Mature malvazija wine can leave a bitter taste of almonds in your mouth.
Events: International competition Svijet Malvazija in April, Poreč (Istria)
Place of growth: Dark, dense forests of Istria that surround Motovun and Buzet, in the valley of the river Mirna
Harvesting: White truffles from September to January, black truffles throughout the year
The reason it is special: Truffles are gourmet mushrooms that have a pungent, intense, earthy scent and a unique taste. It is almost impossible to describe their aroma. Istrian white truffles are among the most esteemed truffles in the world, fetching prices up to 2.000 € per kilogram.
Istarski tartufi grow under the ground on the roots of hrast (oak), vrba (willow) and topola (poplar) trees. Trained dogs are used to finding them. Romans used them as an aphrodisiac and as a medicine. They are usually prepared with pasta, but also are included in risotto, omelets, and meat dishes. There is also a sweet Istrian dessert Motovun u magli (Motovun in the fog) made of black truffles, egg yolk, and cream.
If you wish to go full truffle while in northern Istria, make a booking at Konoba Stari Podrum. It’ll be the best decision you ever make.
Events: Zigante Truffle Days in September, October, and November, Livade (Istria)
Place of growth: Kornati islands National Park
The reason it is special: The Mediterranean climate and untouched nature of the Kornati islands is ideal for the growth of wild sage. This sage contains essential oils with curative effects.
Kornatska kadulja has an intensive, aromatic, and refreshing scent, with a bitter and pungent taste. It is used for the production of hydrolates, essential oils, and tea. The tea has a particularly strong taste.
Brand that produces it: Salvia Kornati
Place of growth: Lika
The reason it is special: Lika potatoes are grown with a high percentage of dry matter due to the tradition and the climate in which it grows. This dry matter includes vitamins (C and B complex), minerals, and starch. The cold nights and less extreme heat in Lika are suitable for the formation of dry matter, which gives these potatoes a floury and crispy taste.
Lika potatoes are ideal for preparing ličke pole which is a dish of unpeeled potatoes cut in half and baked in the oven. It is registered as a protected Croatian product at the EU level.
Events: Dan ličkog krumpira in September, Lovinac (Lika)
Place of growth: Mali Ston
The reason it is special: Malostonske kamenice (Mali Ston’s oysters) grow in one of the last preserved habitats of this species in the bay of Mali Ston. This bay is full of fresh mineral water that comes from the river of Neretva and underground water sources.
Mali Ston’s oysters are one of the best raw oysters in the world recognized as a powerful aphrodisiac. Due to the high salinity of the sea, they have a very distinctive and delicious salty taste that soothes and refreshes.
They are best when consumed directly from the sea, fresh with a bit of lemon. Only 1% of chefs know to open oysters properly without losing their taste. If they are not opened properly, their nectar can be drained and pieces of shells may remain on their meat. Oysters can also be served in soups, risottos, pasta, and deep-fried.
Events: Dani malostonske kamenice in March, Mali Ston
Place of growth: Valley of the river Neretva
Harvesting: Mid-September through the end of December
The reason it is special: Neretvanska mandarina (Neretva’s tangerine) is a sort of very delicious, sweet, and juicy citrus fruit. When the color of their skin is bright orange, they are ripe and ideal for picking.
They are perfect for preparing cakes, desserts, juices, liqueurs, and other refreshing homemade beverages. The valley of the river Neretva has very fertile soil for breeding fruits, so it is not a demanding process. Neretvanska mandarina is registered as a protected Croatian product at the EU level.
Place of growth: Island of Pag
The reason it is special: Paška morska sol (Pag’s sea salt) is a fine sea salt obtained from seawater of the bay of island Pag. It has a salty taste without bitterness.
It is produced at Solana Pag, which is isolated far away from industrial zones contributing to its purity. The salt has very low values of heavy metals since the sea water is rich with shells that clean the sea. It is registered as a protected Croatian product at the EU level.
Place of growth: Varaždin county
Harvesting: September, October
The reason it is special: Varaždinsko zelje (Varaždin’s cabbage) is special for its strong, elastic leaves and high levels of sugar and aromatic oils. It has a spicy taste, which makes it ideal for pickling and preparing the traditional Croatian meals sarma (cabbage stuffed with meat and spices), krpice sa zeljem (stewed cabbage with homemade pasta), and dinstano zelje s kobasicama (stewed cabbage with sausages).
It is registered as a protected Croatian product at the EU level.
Events: Zeljarijada in September, Vidovec (Varaždin county)
Place of growth: Vrgorac
Harvesting: April, May
The reason it is special: Vrgoračke jagode (Vrgorac’s strawberries) are famous strawberries grown in the area around the city of Vrgorac. Vrgorac strawberries are a rich red and deeply sweet.
You can find them on the pazar in late spring, just after the first wave of strawberries from Spain has disappeared. Production started in the 1970s, and now 600.000 to 800.000 kilograms are grown each year.
Events: Dan vrgoračkih jagoda in May, Vrgorac (Split-Dalmatia county)
Place of growth: Slopes of the Učka mountain
Harvesting: September, October
The reason it is special: The most famous habitat of kesteni (chestnuts) in Croatia is the slopes of Učka mountain. This species called maruni are very tasty and a bit bigger than the regular chestnuts.
They are excellent for preparing a tasty traditional Istria dessert marunjača, which is a cake with a chestnut filling. Chestnuts are full of vitamins and unsaturated fats, making them quite healthy to eat.
Events: Oprtaljska kestenijada in October, Opratlj (Istria)
Place of growth: Dalmatia, mostly around Trogir
Harvesting: End of June
The reason it is special: Češnjak šarac is nutritionally the healthiest garlic in Europe. It is a natural antibiotic, antiseptic, and good medicine for the digestion system.
Šarac garlic is light pink, purple, and brownish with longitudinal dashes. It has a specific smell, is a bit spicy, and has a good dose of juiciness, hardness, and good aroma all at the same time. Its taste is completely different than any other garlic. Add it to your dishes towards the end of cooking to preserve its flavor.
Place of growth: Mostly around Zadar, parts of Dalmatia
Harvesting: End of June and beginning of July
The reason it is special: Višnja maraska (marascino cherry) is an indigenous Croatian cherry with a strong sweet-sour taste and excellent quality. The tradition of growing maraschino surpasses 500 years.
Zadarska višnja maraska are used to produce the famous liqueur Maraschino, which is made of its fruits, leaves, and pits.
Events: Maraška fest in July, Sv. Filip i Jakov (Zadar county)
View our other Croatian product articles
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- A guide to buying Adriatic fish at the market
- A local’s guide to buying food at Croatia’s farmer’s market
- Bio & Bio – Organic and natural food
- Croatian farms and food suppliers with online ordering and home delivery
- Everyday Croatian-made products that you can buy to support Croatia
- GMO (genetically modified organisms) in Croatia
- How to give a gift to a Croatian
- The culture of gardening in Croatia including history and the most common vegetables, herbs, and flowers
Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.