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The oyster of Normandy

West coast
The oysters on the west coast (from Granville to Portbail) have the distinction of being bred in open sea. They get a bodied taste and an iodized perfume sought by amateurs.

Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue
The oyster of St-Vaast has become famous for its nutty taste. It's an oyster for both iodized and fleshy.
Depending on its size, it takes 3 to 4 years to get a quality oyster. Tere are 3 main steps in the growth of these shellfishes.

1. The growth: from 0 to 18 months

For its reproduction, the oyster abandons its eggs (spat) which bind on supports prepared by sea farmers.

The largest tides in Europe are on the coasts of Normandy and the streams are so strong that oysters can’t reproduce easily. The sea farmers of Normandy get their spats in the south of France. Oysters then grow for 18 months in the open sea, on the part of the foreshore which is discovered by the sea during the very high tides.

Parc à huîtres


Gouville sur mer

 

2. From 18 to 30 months

Once removed from their collectors, small oysters are placed in mesh pockets to allow seawater to flow. The pockets are attached on tables.

More than one billion litres of water charged with plankton through the gills of the oysters. The pockets are regularly turned (about 20 times) to prevent the oysters to stick and to give them a good shape.

3. 2 months before shipping

Oysters are brought to foreshore where the sea uncovers at every low tide in order to “fool” them, that is to say that they are alternately subject to immersion at high tide and sun and wind at low tide.

Thus, they are forced to open and close frequently which strengthens their muscle that connects the two shells and make them stronger. The shell hardens and the flesh takes on its aroma. Then oysters are ready for shipping out of water.

During the production, the oysters need steady cares.

Pockets have to be cleaned to allow a smooth flow of water. They also have to be split so that the oysters are not too packed when growing.

Each pocket is moved, turned and split every 3 to 4 months at the beginning of the growth and then 3 to 4 more times before shipping.
 

 

Quality control

IFREMER monitors the environment in which shellfishes grow.

Veterinary services control compliance of the packing workshops. They offer a number of health approval which must appear on the label accompanying the products.

Sea farmers also make auto-checking. Thus the quality and safety of shellfishes are at the highest level.
     
   

The smaller the number, the bigger is the oyster. If you buy your oysters in a basket (bourriche), size, weight and the guaranteed minimum number of oysters must appear on the packaging.

Numbers 1 2 3 4 5
Weight >110g >85 <110g >65 <85g >45 <65g >30 <45g