Nowhere along the Adriatic coast are landscape and food so closely linked as in the Neretva Delta, an hour’s drive north of Dubrovnik. Standing in lush green contrast to the arid mix of limestone and scrub that characterizes much of the Croatian coast, the delta is a dense patchwork of melon plantations, tangerine orchards and reedy marsh.
With a shimmering grid of irrigation channels spreading across the plain, local farmers get to their fields by boat: it’s not uncommon to see a row of stone-built waterside houses with a parked motor launch bobbing up and down outside each one.
The waterways of the delta teem with frogs and eels, and hunting for these slithery creatures is an age-old local preoccupation. Together they provide the backbone of a distinctive delta cuisine, and the area is fast gaining cult gastronomic status among Croatian foodies eager to reconnect with earthy regional traditions.
The hub of the Neretva Delta is the workaday river port of Metković, although the homely konobe (inns) in out-of-town villages like Vid, Prud and Opuzen are the best places to eat. It’s in rustic establishments like these that frogs can fill a page or two of the menu, with the white meat of their hind legs either fried in breadcrumbs, grilled with garlic, or wrapped in slivers of pršut, the delicious local home-cured ham. However it is the tangy, succulent eel that is the real delicacy, especially when used as the key ingredient of brudet – a spicy red stew that’s often accompanied by a glossy yellow mound of polenta.