Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >
Sep 14, 2013 05:40 PM

Oysters [split from Oysters in Paris thread, France board]

Good for me as l prefer the bluepoint type to almost anything. The belon type have been cultured in the Pacific Northwest for a long time.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Deluca. You have your oysters mixed up. Belons are not grown in the Pacific Northwest. Perhaps you are thinking of Pacific oysters or Crassostrea Gigas. The native PacNW oysters are Olympias and they are now being restored in several places on the West Coast. "Belons" ARE being grown on farms in Maine. They are Crassostrea Edulis, the same as those in Ireland, England, and Europe. The Romans loved them. But, all oysters get their flavor from their environment. So while the species is the same, the taste is not. Even in France, the taste of a Belon from one farm is not the same as that from another. Bluepoint oysters got their name from Bluepoint Long Island. They stopped producing Bluepoints in the early 1990's. Bluepoints have a long history too. They were reinforced by Chesapeake Bay oysters at the turn of the 20th Century. There are new oysters in Bluepoint Long Island now. They are called Blue Island. The "Bluepoints" you see are now from Connecticut. Again, the taste varies with what the oyster feeds upon.

    6 Replies
    1. re: OINews

      Welcome to Chowhound !

      Westcott Bay Oyster Farm of NW Washington has been growing 'Belons' for a long time. Of course they are different, but still C Edulis and their production predates the Maine ones by , l believe, decades.

      1. re: Delucacheesemonger

        This discussion is getting a little complicated. The West Coast of the US farms grows primarily Pacific (Gigas) oysters- way more than anything else. There are always exceptions. Some growers who even are now growing East Coast or Crassostrea virginica oysters in the Seattle area. The farming of Gigas in the Pacific Northwest goes back to the 1930's when two enterprizing Japanese pioneers brought the seed from Japan. The West Coast has also concentrated on Kumamotos since WWII, when the Gigas seed became difficult to obtain from Japan. Since 1980, the French have been growing Gigas and when the Japanese seed became competitive with France, the US marine biologists started growing their own Gigas seed in hatcheries. More recently, Gigas triploids have been used widely because they do not spawn and grow faster. Farmers in Chesapeake Bay now grow triploid C. virginica oysters for the same reason. There was a push to grow "Belons" on the East Coast and especially in New England around 20 years ago. The effort was deemed unsuccessful and interest dried up. No one told the "Belons" and they flourished "wild." The farmer you are referring to in Maine discovered a healthy set of "Belons" in her lease and decided to harvest them by hand with scuba gear about the same time as Westcott, I reckon. Since her success, other Maine farmers have picked up on the idea. Some are now trying to actually spawn them in hatcheries in Maine. I live in Massachusetts and I gather oysters recreationally on the north shore. I find wild "Belons" from time to time left over from the original attempts to grow them here. If you want a traditional tasting Belon (Crassostrea Edulis) oyster, you are still better off in France or Ireland. If you want a great C. virginica oyster you are better off on the Eastern Seaboard - all the way from Prince Edward Island to Galveston, Texas. For a great Pacific oyster it's a tossup between British, Irish, French, and US versions. You can also buy C. Gigas in Japan both wild and farmed but they are not available in the U.S. They look very similar but taste different. They are called "Rock" oysters in Great Britain. I would also add that oysters are seasonal. Even the best ones have a season when they are at peak flavor. I always recommend buying your oysters where you can taste them first - no matter where you are.

        1. re: OINews

          "Even the best ones have a season"
          Not according to some experts. Pti?

          1. re: John Talbott

            John. Yes, oysters have a season. They eat various kinds of algae and filter feed daily with the incoming tide. But algae is a function of sunlight. As the days get shorter, the food diminishes and changes. The water temperature affects the glycogen in their body. which affects the natural sweetness. The colder the water, the sweeter the oyster. When it rains, the salt proportions in the water change. Conversely, in a drought, the water becomes more salty, so does the oyster. If the oyster spawns, its body functions alter producing a mix of spawning substance and flesh. During the dead of winter, many oysters are forced to hybernate. They don't eat for months at a time. The fat content reduces accordingly, again reducing the sweetness. As you know, oysters also change sex. Some species hold their fertilized eggs in the shell, some not. They also occasionally must fight disease which also uses up their growth energy. Don't believe me. Ask a shucker at a good restaurant. Better yet, frequent a farm and taste the same oyster once a week. etc. No question. They do change taste seasonally. Even the best ones do.

            1. re: OINews

              Not me - I quote the one and only Pti Feb 23, 2013 08:47 PM
              "Just for information, there no longer is an oyster season since refrigeration was invented.
              The "r months" was a precaution based on the fact that unrefrigerated oysters could suffer during the warm months. That stopped being a risk long ago. Actually, some people (especially in the producing regions and including me) like oysters in the Summer. In Winter, they're limp, watery and too skinny. (However these days you can find perfectly fat oysters in Winter too.)"
              Perhaps the difference here is between seasonal variation and preference and seasonal yes/no eating.

              1. re: John Talbott

                John. I have no idea who Pti is or where he gets his oysters. I also do not know where you live or where you get your oysters. The "R" month history reputedly began in England. It was based upon the Crassostrea Edulis oyster. It fertilizes its eggs inside its shell. Eating an Edulis oyster in summer during spawning season tastes like chalk. Taking wild oysters during spawning season reduces the population of the oyster. To this day in England, eating wild oysters is restricted to the "R" months by law. Because we are a former British colony, the "R" month tradition is believed to have arrived in the U.S. by boat with the British. Our native Crassostrea virginica is so named because it was discovered by the early colonists in Virginia. It was actually named by them. But the virginica oysters fertilize their eggs in the sea, not in the shell. So there are no fertilized eggs in their shells - just unfertilized eggs or sperm depending upon the sex of the oyster. Oysters spawning is a function of temperature. In Spring, when the water temperature rises to about 60F, the oysters spawn. The oysters actually spit, something like a clam. In shallow water you can see it. It is why the young oysters are called spat.This usually happens in late May or early June. So our virginica oysters also taste funny while they are spawning. You can see it in the oysters. Both the sperm and the unfertilized eggs are milky white. The other problem in summer is the presence of human waste discharged from pleasure boats. An oyster can purge itself from such things eventually. But if you eat oysters around pleasure boats in summer, you are at risk of sickness. This risk goes away when the boats are removed for the winter. You can also "purify" such oysters with ultraviolet light for 24 hours or so and remove the danger. Public health officials monitor the water to avoid such things. Vibro is a virus that occurs naturally in oysters in warm water. When oysters are removed from the water in summer and are not refrigerated properly, the Vibrio multiplies like crazy and can make you sick to your stomach. Proper refrigeration or cooking removes this threat. Red tide is a phytoplankton that also blooms in summer waters. If you eat shellfish contaminated by Red Tide it can kill you. It takes six hours for your brain to become paralized. In the U.S. we monitor Red Tide very carefully. Public health officials prohibit harvesting oysters when Red Tide is discovered to be present. But Red Tide is primarily a threat only in the warm months. (It sometimes reappears in October.) Cooking will not kill it. It is better known as paralytic shellfish poisoning or PSP. Red Tide is not present in cold winter water. Anyone who is ignorant of such risks in the summer months eats oysters at their own peril. Chesapeake Bay oysters in recent years have been farmed using seedless oysters. They are called triploids. They are virginica oysters who cannot spawn so they grow faster and stay fat in the summer when other (diploid) oysters are emaciated from spawning. Since they don't spawn, the taste of sperm or unfertilized eggs is absent in them. All of the other dangers continue to be possible. You can Google all of these terms and subjects. There are numerous books on the subject as well. I hope you enjoy oysters happily hereafter regardless of the season. But I will stop responding now.