Along with Istrian food, there is always a salad, preferably seasonal with lots of tomatoes, onions, peppers and all this, of course, is drizzled with good homemade pumpkin oil! What?! Say again?! Where does pumpkin oil on the Istrian table come from? Considering that breaking down prejudices and stereotypes is a part of every gastronomic visit, then pumpkin oil is also a part of the Istrian offer, especially when it is tasted in the family farm of Irvin Kocijančić in Rogovići near Kaštelir. The whole family now uses pumpkin oil in their diet, but they also offer various other pumpkin products, which in Istria is called cuka. It is sold mostly on the doorstep, and during the summer months, it is also sold at stalls in tourist places along the coast.
The peculiarity of this oil is that it is cold-pressed, and in Istria, it is poorly known, although this offer can be found at numerous fairs throughout the year. Namely, pumpkin oil is a characteristic taste of the northern Croatian regions, especially Međimurje, Slavonia and the Varaždin region, where the best producers of this black and thick oil come from. The usual taste of this oil is not the one offered by Irvin Kocijančić precisely because of the method of cold pressing, which means that the colour is darker, the smell is more pronounced and stronger, and nutty in taste. "It always surprises me how Istrians know about pumpkin oil, because relatives and friends bring it to them, so our offer is not so new to them," says Irvin Kocijančić. In fact, the pumpkin seed oil is used surprisingly more in Istria than previously thought.
In front of us arrives bread with pumpkin seeds and oil, fresh cheese on which a little pumpkin oil is poured, the oil itself and salted pumpkin seeds. The main "culprit" for the transition to the production of cold-pressed pumpkin oil is Irvin's father Valdi, who is smiling at the top of the table. "We were looking for a crop that would be in line with the crop rotation of the existing cereal production, which needs to be replaced after a year or two," Irvin tells us, explaining the move. Pumpkins were of interest because of their benefits, but also because of the fully mechanized production. They found a professional who helped them and the results are obvious. At first, there was an idea to offer only seeds as a raw material, which did not bring much success. Therefore, in 2012, the Kocijančić family started oil production.
As irrigation is an important segment of agricultural production, especially for this crop, Kocijančići planted most of the pumpkins in the valley of the river Mirna, but also near the family house. We toured the field, where we saw already quite large pumpkins that will ripen in a couple of months. Only seeds are harvested with a special combine, and the meat remains in the field as fertilizer. As soon as the seeds are dry, ie when they have seven to eight per cent moisture in them, they are mechanically cleaned and the raw material is obtained for frying or processing into pumpkin oil.
This oil is mostly used for salads and it is better the fresher it is. It is not recommended for frying, but in Istria, a custom is already being created to mix pumpkin oil with olive oil and add it to food. This novelty in Istrian flavours is within reach of anyone heading to the west coast of Istria:
OPG Irvin Kocijančić
+385 91 523 2406