Not far from our little shop in Rock is Porthilly Farm, owned and operated by the Marshall family since 1918. But this farm does not just work the land; since the early 1980s it has also been an oyster, mussel and clam farm!
The Marshalls buy Pacific Oyster seed, known as spat, from a hatchery and grow them in floating mesh bags in the beautiful River Camel until the oysters reach a size deemed suitable for eating. An oyster can take anywhere between 16 and 24 months to reach maturity. During this time they are continually monitored, moved into larger mesh bags on trestles on the estuary bed and then harvested, purified and sold to the public. In a year, Porthilly Farm produces around 1.5 million oysters!
This way of farming means that not only can the cultivation of the oysters and mussels continue as a sustainable, Cornish business over 12 months of the year, but it also means that the Marshalls actively contribute to the natural filtering of the local waters. (So that’s why the estuary is so clear around Rock!) The Porthilly Farm was able to bring in this new system of sustainable farming thanks to grant money from the Government’s Marine Management Organisation and the European Fisheries Fund.
This process also leads to a tasty product. The Porthilly Oysters won Gold in the Pacific (Rock) Oyster Category at the British Oyster Championship 2013. According to oyster-tasting experts at Simply Oysters, these are plump, firm, woody and nutty; followed by the flavour of sweet cucumber with a fresh avocado finish!
If you are lucky enough to be enjoying the Rock Oyster Festival this weekend then perhaps try one and see what you think.
New to shucking? Look no further!
Always use professional equipment when available. You’ll need a shucking knife and a protective glove.
Tap your oyster on the kitchen work surface. If it opens, throw it away. If it stays closed, it is still alive and you can eat it!
Wash under cold water with a stuff brush.
Maintain your concentration while shucking; you don’t want any mishaps.
Insert the knife into the hinge between the shells and gently wiggle the knife further in.
Keep wiggling until it pops open.
Don’t freak out at the live oyster!
Slide the knife across the underside of the upper shell and cut the muscle.
Remove upper shell.
Slide the knife across the underside of the bottom shell and cut the muscle.
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