Tuesday, 4 November 2008

What is an oyster?

Ostrea edulis, the native oyster, is a curious creature. Essential the oyster is a filter feeder that feeds primarily on phytoplankton and occurs in beds on the seafloor in concentrations of up 20,000. The oyster is biologically similar to a scallop or mussel and is eaten much in the same way, although the oyster is normally eaten raw and still alive. The oyster has always had an allure surrounding it, sometimes for its medicinal or so called aphrodisiac properties, but in modern times the allure is that it is seen as a luxury and decadent item consumed at the tables or bars of top restaurants and champagne bars. As a result of this through history the stocks of oysters have been fished almost to collapse to pass across peoples pallets and so the oyster has become an important aquaculture species and is farmed to be sold to restaurants, supermarkets and seafood retailers worldwide.

More detailed information can be found at any of these sites

The website of the Marine Biological Association of the UK and Ireland.

ARKive website

Check out this video on how to prepare and eat an oyster on the hairy bikers cooking show

Oyster pictures

Where oysters live?

these maps show the distribution of Ostreas edulis
(top) and the main producing countries(bottom). Please click to enlarge

The variety Ostreas edulis occurs in England, France, Spain and many other European countries as well as the USA and Canada, although they favour farming the pacific oyster. It is mainly farmed in the UK and Spain in Europe. There are other varieties of oyster present thought the world such as the pacific oyster which is eaten in the USA and the pearl oyster which is eaten but also used in the production of pearls in Indonesia.

For more in depth information about the native oyster and the farming of oysters please follow this link to the UN cultured aquatic species information programme report which includes information on biological features and identification, natural history and aquaculture history and photos of the oyster and photos of aquaculture methods, nursery practices, growing techniques both on and off bottom (with diagrams), harvesting, handling and processing, market and trade.

these maps show the distribution of Ostreas edulis
(top) and the main producing countries(bottom).

Oyster love

Peoples love and fascination with the oyster has given rise to festivals and events worldwide dedicated to the consuming of the oyster. Such as the Falmouth oyster festival in Cornwall and the world shucking competition held in Ireland.

More info about the world of oyster eating please follow these links

Galway international oyster festival and shucking competion in ireland

Falmouth Cornwall oyster festival

take a look at this video of an oyster shucking competition in the good ol us of a