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Site map - France, Atlantic Coast, Oysters, the Oysters of Marennes-Oléron

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The speciality of the Marennes-Oléron basin

The techniques of breeding are similar in all the oyster regions of France, but in Marennes-Oléron, oysters end their growth in the "claires" ponds. This is the refining in "claires".

The "claires" system needs some explanation if one wants to fully appreciate the oysters of the region.

The "claires" are ponds dug in the clay and they are generally ancient salt pans reconverted in the19th century, after the decline of the production of salt.

After their growth in parks, oysters are placed in the ‘claires’ where they acquire their tint and their taste.

The green tint, which is sometimes stronger than others, is due to the presence of the blue ‘navicule’, the special seaweed of the region, the colour varying according to the climatic conditions.

How to select Marennes-Oléron oysters

One can eat oysters all year long. For a long time, people claimed that oysters were only good when there was an " r "  in the month.

In fact, May, June, July and August correspond to the warmest periods and it is necessary to take precautions when transporting the oysters. So, no problem during your summer holidays!

From May until September, the oyster is busy with its reproduction, and it can be 'more or less milky', which can put off those who are still not familiar with oysters and attempting them for the first time.

In winter, oysters accumulate reserves and are fleshy and tasty.

All oysters are not alike. The choice is vast. One can prefer them fat or thin, small, average or large, short or long, full or less full , … It is good to get acquainted with the basic criteria, size and maturity.

Small, medium, large

Oysters are classified according to the official regulation into five categories which correspond to weights or ranges of weights within well-defined margins. These categories are represented by numbers, from 5 for the smallest to 0 for the largest.

The old denominations of Small, Medium and Large are also practical.

Fines de claire, Spéciales de claire, Green oysters, Special green oysters

The conditions of maturing lead to two large categories:

The Fines de claire, Green oysters, these stayed at least 3 weeks in the ‘claires’ (oyster beds) with a density of about 20 oysters per m2.

The Spéciales de claire, special Green oysters, these stayed at least twice as long in the ‘claires’ with a density of about 10 per m2.

They are more fleshy. Some producers grow and market "Speciales pousse en claire", which stay four to six months in ‘claires’ with a density of maximum 5 per m2. They are available only in autumn and in winter. This is the very top end of the market!

In addition to that, the professional organisations agreed on tasting indicators in order that the amateur can easily identify his favourite oysters.

"bien en chair" means a firm, crispy, milder taste,

"bien équilibrées" means a well balanced taste with smooth flesh,

"bien en eau" means not too much flesh with a little bit of a salty taste.

How to appreciate the Marennes-Oléron oysters

First, you must open them. This operation should not especially take away the pleasure of eating oysters. If you have never opened them before, ask your supplier to give you a demonstration.

He will advise you on the type of knife to use and will show you all the tricks you need to know to get the acquired touch. If you really want to forego the satisfaction of opening them yourself, your trader will be pleased to open them for you, leaving lids on them so that you can carry them home.

The ultimate solution, please, go and eat oysters at the restaurant or go to where the oyster producers propose a tasting and a meal.

If one really wants to appreciate the taste, they should be eaten ‘nature’, which is without any additional dressing and do not hesitate to chew them. However, they are also delicious with a little lemon or vinaigre sauce with shallots. They can be accompanied with ' crépinettes ', flat sausages, or with a slice of local pâté de campagne.

Naturally, bread and a dry white wine are part of the entertainment. Rye bread is particularly good. Please, try this sequence : oyster, bread, white wine.


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