by Ilene Polansky
There are three broad classifications: Pacific, Olympia and Atlantic. Each grouping is then further broken down to the very shore from which they are harvested.
Originally from Japan, the Pacific Oyster is the most widely cultured oyster in the world. They are sold under a variety of names, usually denoting their race or growing area. I tend to think of a Pacific oyster as a creamier oyster, a mineral type of ocean taste, versus an Atlantic oyster where you can taste the saltiness of the ocean. Kumamoto is one example. In 1568, Job Hortop set down in the Gulf of Mexico and wrote of "oysters growing on trees." The story goes on that spat (baby oysters) clung in bunches to trees on the water's edge. The oysters were alternately covered in water or left high and dry, with the tide, thus encouraging them to grow well. That is why they are believed to be so small. This oyster has a buttery finish, it is one of the best sellers at the restaurant because it is considered a beginner's oyster due its small size and mild taste.
Another Pacific oyster is a Samish Bay with a crisp full taste and lots of meat because of its full cup. Others include Steamboats, Pearl Bay, Malaspina, Royal Myagi, each with a different finish from very creamy to metallic to just a hint of salt or nuts.
Native to the Pacific coast is it found primarily in Washington's Sound, it is a very small oyster seldom exceeding 2 inches. This oyster has a very full flavor with a distinct aftertaste.
There are many varieties of Atlantic oysters, such as Malpeque, Caraquet, Blue Point, Pine Island, Pugwash, and more. Each oyster has its own degree of salt. Some customers prefer the Malpeque to a Caraquet just because it is a saltier oyster. Some like the Pine Island because it has a fruity finish, and some prefer a Pemequid because of its almond finish.
This page modified February 2007
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