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Originally published in the Journal de Montréal on October 9, 2010.
The ancient Greeks and Romans had a real passion for oysters. They even knew how to farm them from the embryos collected at sea. The word “oyster” derives from the Latin “ostrea”, which itself comes from the Greek “ostreon”. Today, farmed oysters account for 95% of those sold on the world market. Climate, the saltiness and temperature of the water, the type of seabed where the oysters are farmed and the plankton that they eat are all factors that give each type of oyster its distinctive flavour.
Some of the most prized Canadian “terroirs” are Malpeque and Caraquet in the Maritimes and Fanny Bay and Nootka Sound in B.C. Depending on the species and region, it takes about two to seven years for oysters to reach a marketable size.
In Canada, oysters are classified according to the shape of their shell and the ratio of the shell’s length and width. Classification terms are ‘commercial’, ‘normal’, ‘choice’ and ‘luxury’. This is not related to different flavours but rather to the ease with which the oysters can be shucked. It is preferable to open oysters just before serving and to eat them raw.
Plan for six to eight oysters per serving for an appetizer, and 12 to 15 for a main course. With only 10 calories each, oysters are an excellent source of Vitamins D and B12, Copper, Iron, Selenium and Zinc, and a source of omega-3. Enjoy!
Want to know more? Read the The Oyster Guide.
Once you feel you can master them, shuck them and let us know what you think!