Native Oysters Are Back!
The native oyster season is once again upon us and we have been busy during the summer preparing for the beginning of September. Over the last couple of weeks, we have been checking on the progress of the meat, and they’re coming along very nicely. As mentioned in our previous blog post, native oysters are extremely delicate and they struggle to survive in certain conditions. Moving the native oysters from the deeper waters to our oyster beds means that they will hopefully get all of the right nutrients in order for the meat inside to become plump and perfect for our customers.
Native oysters are quite different in taste and texture to Gigas. A native oyster contains up to 500 times your recommended daily zinc allowance, and it is this which gives the oyster its metallic taste. When the Romans landed in England, it is rumoured they said that the only good thing to come out of England, were the oysters. We like to think the Romans were, in fact, picking native oysters out of the same muddy creeks that Richard’s family have for the past 300 years. The thing that sets them apart from the gigas oysters, and perhaps other native oysters that are available elsewhere in the UK, is the flavour.
Tom, Richard’s son, believes that the oysters his family cultivates are set apart because of the nutritiously rich, muddy marshland and they have a flavour that cannot be rivalled among the other oyster farmers in the UK. The native oyster needs to be protected and stocks need to improve so this mollusc can be enjoyed for many more years to come. Richard has been working closely with ENORI and you can read more about ENORI and what it is, here.
One of the exciting things we’re changing this season, is that we will be opening our stall at Borough Market on Mondays starting from next week, the 2nd September. We want to be able to provide our customers with more time to enjoy the product we have worked so hard to farm and to showcase the thing that has made Mersea Island famous!
As a celebration for the start of the native oyster season, there’s always a dredging match over on the Packing Shed Island in September. It’s become a firm favourite for the locals on the Island, but it is open to anyone. The Haward family have been cultivating oysters on Mersea Island for nearly 300 years and the dredging match is something that is close to our hearts. It’s something we’re hugely passionate about and like to enjoy the day with everyone who wants to visit. Many of our customers are based in and around the capital and we know that the Island is a place they enjoy visiting in their spare time and at the weekends. Next Sunday (8th September) marks the date for this year’s dredging match and it’s something that we would love for our customers - old and new - to come along to and enjoy the day.
The Packing Shed on Mersea Island is a beautiful and fitting setting for something that is a great tradition. The dredging match begins in the morning where teams will sail out into the river and dredge by hand that will then be landed back on the Packing Shed to be weighed. As well as the dredging competition, there’s also the annual shucking competition. Shucking is something that everyone has the ability to learn and adjust to find a way to shuck that is comfortable for them. The shucking competition always takes place after the oysters have been weighed. Last year saw around 10 people enter the competition which made for exciting watching and it was a close run thing! This year, we’re expecting much of the same and it is something that Richard supports by providing the oysters to be shucked.
It’s a great day out and the weather is always glorious. If you have been to the Packing Shed before, you will know what a peaceful and unique setting is. Before the day, you’re able to purchase a seafood platter to enjoy on the Packing Shed with a glass of wine, or a bottle of beer and of course, some native oysters! There is a launch running from the West Mersea Jetty from midday that is free of charge and you can just enjoy something different. There are usually around 200 people in attendance and you can learn so much from going. There’s great entertainment, and let’s face it, there’s not many things that are better than seafood, oysters and a chilled glass of wine. On the platter you will get; beetroot cured gravadlax, hot smoked whiskey salmon, shell on prawns, peeled prawns, greenlip mussels, pickled sweet cured herrings, smoked mackerel, cockles, salad and some fresh bread and butter. You can also choose to add a glass of wine, bottle of beer, a Guinness, or a small prosecco for £15. These need to be purchased before the day so we know about quantities, and you can pre-order yours by clicking this link. If you have any specific dietary requirements, please let us know before the day so we can adhere to your needs. You can purchase your platter by following this link