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Types of Oysters

Types of Oysters

Léon-Paul Fargue (1876 – 1947) was a famous French poet and essayist.

As he was an oyster lover, he says “Eating oyster is like kissing the sea on the lips”

Oysters are bivalve ocean mollusks found in the wild worldwide, but they also are now one of the most commonly farmed shellfish. According to a research of world fishery industry, an oyster filters about 25 gallons of water through its system every day, so the qualities of the water greatly affect the oyster’s flavor.

Five species of oysters dominate the culinary scene in the world but the current market is dominated by the larger Pacific oyster and rock oyster varieties which are farmed year round.

The oyster is a favorite gourmet delicacy all over the world, whether eaten smoked, fried or raw on the half shell. However, it can be hard for anyone but a connoisseur to choose from the hundreds of unique oyster varieties available. An oyster’s flavor depends not only on its species, but also on its location and the conditions of its habitat. Water salinity, temperature and nutrient content all play important roles in creating an oyster’s taste. Depending on where it’s from, an oyster can be briny, sweet, buttery or creamy, with any number of subtle and surprising overtones.

As oysters go, the French have long been the undisputed leader in all of Europe. Not only do the French produce the lion share of the oysters in Europe, they are also their own best customers. More than 90% of the oysters produced in France are consumed by the French. The French oyster business traditionally starts booming between Christmas and New Year’s Day. About 50% of the annual oyster production is consumed during this time.

Oysters are healthy, natural and full of goodness. They are full of protein, iron, copper, vitamin B12 and many other minerals. 100% of the daily recommended intake can be obtained from one dozen oysters.

Harvesting and packing will normally take place on the day prior to shipment.

Health benefits

Oysters, especially ‘wild’, are excellent sources of several minerals, including iron, zinc and selenium, which are often low in the modern diet. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin B12. Oysters are considered the healthiest when eaten raw on the half shell. Traditionally, oysters were considered to be an aphrodisiac. A team of American and Italian researchers analyzed bivalves and found they were rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones. Their high zinc content aids the production of testosterone.

Oysters consume nitrogen-containing compounds (nitrates and ammonia), removing them from the water. Nitrogen compounds are important phytoplankton nutrients. Phytoplankton increase water turbidity. Limiting the amount of phytoplankton in the water improves water quality and other marine life by reducing competition for dissolved oxygen. Oysters feed on plankton, incidentally consuming nitrogen compounds as well. They then expel solid waste pellets which decompose into the atmosphere as nitrogen.

Handling Live Oysters.

Live Oysters are best eaten within a week of harvest. They are best kept alive by placing them in an open container in a refrigerator (1c° to 7c°) and covering them with a clean wet towel to prevent them from drying out. Do not keep them in a bucket of sea water, in plastic bags or other air tight containers.

The oysters change their sex during their lives, starting as males and usually ending as females. The shape of oysters varies and depends mainly on how many crowd about them in the bed as they develop.

In the north hemisphere people say (English) "Never eat oysters in months without an ‘R’ in them" was based partly on the difficulty in keeping oysters from spoiling in warm weather (May, June, July and August) before efficient methods of refrigeration had been developed. Actually, oysters are good to eat all year long. After spawning, however, they may become thin and watery. Oysters are in best condition in winter and early spring.

As filter-feeders, oysters can concentrate bacteria and viruses within their bodies. These may be harmful to man when oysters are eaten raw or insufficiently cooked. Such diseases as typhoid fever and hepatitis have been traced to contaminated shellfish taken from polluted waters. Oyster also referred to as one of the most sought-after coastal mollusks. Not only do people enjoy eating them, live oyster reefs help clean the water and provide habitat for all sorts of other animals such as sponges, small crabs, and fishes.

Frequently, the novice oyster shucker will encounter a golden-brown "worm" within the oyster’s body. The initial reaction is to throw the oyster away, thinking it is parasitized. However, the "worm" is an enzyme complex formed by the oyster itself when it has been actively feeding. Thus, it could be considered a mark of freshness. Red and green worms that live outside the oyster’s shell sometimes wander across the shucked oyster meat. They may be startling, but should not interfere with the enjoyment of the meal.

By many counties law, no one may take or fishing oysters from the polluted areas either for sale or for personal use. So, you better make sure where the oyster are come from and if there are certificated by Hygiene Bureau.

The enemies of the oyster are usually oyster drill snails, starfish, oyster flatworms, and crabs.

Pacific Oyster, Scientific Name: Crassostrea gigas 太平洋牡蛎: (学名:长巨牡蛎)

The Pacific oyster is another species native to Japan and is therefore often called the Japanese oyster. They growers brought to the United States in the 1920s, because the local Olympia oysters had been over-harvested nearly to extinction. The Pacific oyster now holds the distinction of being the most widely cultivated oyster in the world. Fanny Bays, Golden Mantle, Hama Hamas, Mad River, Malaspina, Penn Cove, Royal Miyagi, Samish Bay, Shoalwater, Skookum, Steamboat, Tomales Bay, Totten and Yaquina Bay are all varieties of Pacific oysters.

These Oysters are harvested also on the west coast of South Australia’s clear pristine waters from the following bays: Coffin Bay, Streaky Bay, Haslam, Smoky Bay, Franklin Harbour and Ceduna.

Even when the oysters have grown to adult size (70-90mm) they need to reach a plump condition on the racks before they are marketed. This is a hardy species with fast growth and high reproductive rates. Now, the highly adaptable Pacific oyster lives all over the world, and is very common on the North America west coast, Europe, {especially France} and Asia.

Flavors are extremely variable, but Pacific oysters tend to have a sweeter, creamier taste, as opposed to the briny taste characteristic of Atlantic oysters. These oysters can grow up to a foot long, but are better eaten raw when still small.

The same mild flavor as our large Pacific’s, our medium Pacific’s also have sturdy shells that lend themselves to a variety of preparations.

Size: 4-5 inch shell

Serving Suggestion

Excellent for the barbeque, on the half-shell, pan-fried, or shucked and used in your favorite stew. We like to shuck them and bake them on the half shell with a variety of sauces.

Handling Medium Pacific Oysters in the Shell

Shucked oysters have a varying shelf life depending on the season. At the height of the summer, oysters are higher in fat content and should be eaten within a couple of weeks of processing (check the container lid for the pull date). During the winter, however, they can last for an additional week if kept cool. Oysters can be frozen shucked or in the shell, but their texture will usually suffer.

Flat Oysters (Belon or European)

Australia has Angasi Flat Oyster, Scientific Name: Ostrea angasi

Also known as European oysters; are native to Europe’s southwestern coasts; nearly wiped out in Europe by over-harvesting by the late 1850s, the flat oyster population recovered somewhat before serious diseases that first emerged in the 1970s virtually annihilated them.

Flat oysters they have been largely depleted there; now, farms in Maine and the Pacific Northwest are the primary cultivators of flat oyster varieties.

Flats are medium-sized oysters and often have a slightly metallic or nutty flavor. One very popular type of flat oyster In the Pacific Northwest is the citrusy Westcott Bay Belon oyster, farmed off Washington’s San Juan Island.

The best-known variety in Europe is the Belon, a name that specifically refers to flat oysters grown in the estuary of the Belon River in southern France.

Other varieties are the Cohchester, Dorset, Galway, Helford, Marenes and Whitstable.

In Australia the Angasi Flat Oyster occurs naturally along the coast of NSW and extends into Southern Queensland as well as into all the southern states and Western Australia. This particular variety of oyster is native to Australia; it attaches itself to hard substrates before later breaking free to settle itself on sand or soft mud. The Angasi Oyster is well known for its salty flavour and fine textured meat.

Kumamoto Scientific Name: Crassostrea Sikamea.

Originally it came from only Kumamoto Bay in southern Japan and native of Ariake Bay in Kumamoto Prefecture, on the southern Japanese island of Kyushu.

This Japanese import is one the most widely cultivated oyster on the West Coast of the United States, including California, Washington and Oregon.

Because it comes from such warm waters, the Kumamoto doesn’t spawn naturally in the colder waters of the Western coast of North America. As a result they are the sweetest and most flavorful in the summer months, which is when they get closest to spawning.

Oysters are considered less appealing during spawning. In order to grow them, shellfish farms heat the water they are in to induce the spawn. Given their size and milder flavors, they are a good oyster to try on the half shell for the first time.

Kumamotos are prized by half-shell connoisseurs for their smooth texture and sweet fruity flavor. Kumamoto’s have deeply cupped and highly sculptured, fluted shells which make them ideal for serving on the half-shell. Kumamoto oysters have a smooth texture and a sweet, buttery flavor and are known as "the best variety of oyster on the West Coast," according to Dubow’s feature on oysters.

Serving Suggestion

Kumamotos should be served chilled on the half-shell. Make sure that you serve them just after they have been shucked. That way you will experience them at their peak flavor. As an accompaniment, we recommend a dry crisp white wine, chilled to the same temperature as the Kumamoto’s.

Because of its unintimidating size and mild taste, the Kumamoto oyster is a perfect choice for people new to eating oysters. This variety pairs well with sweet white wines like sauvignon blanc.

Olympia, Scientific Name: Ostrea lurida

This West Coast native oyster is smaller than most other varieties, measuring no more than about 2 inches in diameter. Highly prized for its full flavor, it is no longer widely available because of over-harvesting.

Sweet, coppery flavor and a coppery finish. We suggest to taken cold, glistening and uncompromised, directly from their shells with a dry, crisp, clean-finishing white wine.

The Olympia oyster is native to Puget Sound in the Pacific Northwest, but due to pollution and over harvesting, are now found only in the Olympia area. It’s a very small and delicate variety, only ever growing to 2 inches across. Rowan Jacobsen, oyster connoisseur and author of "A Geography of Oysters," writes that the Olympia oyster has an "unmistakable sweet, metallic, celery-salt flavor."

Viriginica or Eastern, Scientific Name: Crassostrea virginica

Other Names

Atlantic Oyster, American Oyster, Virginia Oyster, Gulf Coast Oyster.

Those oysters occur naturally from Nova Scotia to South America. They are also known as Eastern oysters—live all along the eastern coast of the United States and in parts of the Canadian and Mexican coasts. They are generally thought to be saltier than Pacific oysters.

According to Forbes writer Charles Dubow, Viriginica oysters account for 85 percent of American-farmed oysters. They come in many varieties and vary drastically in taste, but are generally saltier than oysters from other regions. Some well-known varieties are the Prince Edward Island or Malpeque oyster, the Chesapeake Bay oyster and the Blue Point oyster.

Viriginica oysters from colder waters usually have crisper flesh and a saltier flavor than those from southern waters.

Like other oysters, Viriginica oysters can make brearls if a grain of sand or debris becomes lodged between the shell and the outer layer of tissue (the mantle) that secretes the shell. The particle itself is then covered in layers of new shell, and if it does not become a part of the surrounding shell, it becomes a separate "pearl." Pearls made by Viriginica oysters, however, are of no commercial interest since they have no real luster.

Valve (shell) length of the eastern oyster reaches up to 8 inches (20 cm).

The Habitat of them is abundant in shallow saltwater bays, lagoons and estuaries, in water 8 to 25 feet (2.5 to 7.5 m) deep and between 28 and 90 degrees F (-2 to 32 degrees C ). Ocean waters from Canada to Mexico are where the eastern oyster is found.

Sydney Rock Oyster, Scientific Name: Saccostrea commercialis The Sydney Rock Oyster is found in Victoria, New South Whales, and Queensland, around Northern Australia and down the coast of Western Australia. 4 This oyster varies in shape, colour, texture and flavour, depending on where they are farmed. It is a slow growing oyster (approximately 4 years) and is subject to very strict environmental conditions. The farmers have a clear understanding and experience working with this oyster which enables them to produce a high quality oyster.





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