"Guide to Oysters." I could just send you to that website to read, but I'm regurgitating here so that I can learn, plus I've got a few bits of my own to add.)
Apparently there are five species of oysters harvested in the United States. The various subsets derive from where they live, what they filter, how they are handled. (The more I read about oysters, the more they remind me of wine! Terroir, baby.)
The Hood Canal oysters from the other evening are Pacific oysters (Crassostrea gigas). They are small and sweet, with a distinctly fluted, sharply pointed shell, and are the world's most cultivated oyster. "Today Pacifics are usually named after where they are grown, such as Totten Inlet and Fanny Bay, but some are trade names such as the justly well-known Sweetwater oyster from Hog Island Oyster Company."
I spent a couple of weeks recently on Cape Cod, and there I was treated to the delicious Wellfleet oysters, the different strains of which from various parts of Wellfleet Bay aficionados are able to distinguish. Me, I just thought they were darn good oysters. Wellfleets, along with bluepoints, malpeques, and beausoleils, are all Atlantic oysters (C. virginicas), as are 85 percent of the oysters harvested in the U.S. (including the Gulf of Mexico). "True bluepoints are raised in Long Island's Great South Bay, where they were first found. Today, 'bluepoint oyster' is often used as a general term for any Atlantic oyster served on the half-shell."
And finally, there are Olympia oysters, or O. lurida/O. conchapila. "Olympias make the tiny Kumamotos look like giants, often coming in about the size of a quarter. They are the only oyster native to the West Coast of the U.S. Their popularity in San Francisco during the Gold Rush almost wiped them out, and they were believed to be extinct for decades. Wild populations still exist, however, and are strictly protected. Olympias at the market and in restaurants are cultivated, mostly in the Puget Sound and British Columbia. Olympias are sweet, coppery, and metallic."
Six years ago, we had the pleasure of going out with the owner of the Morro Bay Oyster Company, Neal Maloney, and tasting oysters pulled straight out of the water. I'll end with a few photos from that delightful day.
|The oyster farm|
|Oysters being grown in mesh bags|
|Neal serving up|
Oh, and in case you were wondering: pearl oysters are in entirely different families than edible oysters. But that's a story for another day.