Inland Seafood Oyster Primer
Inland Seafood is proud to offer Fresh Oysters sourced direct to you from New England to Vancouver and beyond. Oysters have always been historically linked with love (deriving the word aphrodisiac), and are referenced as an important food in helping define the settling of North America. Health wise, oysters are a good source of Protein, Vitamin C, Thiamin, Niacin, Magnesium, and Phosphorus. They also contain Vitamin B12, Iron, Zinc, Copper, Manganese, and Selenium. We at Inland Seafood want to emphasize that the practice of oyster farming is a sustainable activity that improves the marine environment, purifying water supplies with a minimal impact on the ocean’s ecosystem.
Once a way of life, modern aquaculture has caught the attention of the culinary world to celebrate the oyster on menus across the country. You’ll see from our selections that Inland has developed strong lasting relationships with North America’s signature oyster producers in an effort to promote the best possible product. Oysters acquire their complex flavors, shapes and stories from the areas where they are grown. So the same species grown in different locations will have noticeable differences; with some tasting sweet, others salty, some with a mineral flavor and others with a fruity melon-like flavor. We know you’ll find the perfect match for the novice taster to the most discriminate Chef.
Remember, buying oysters from reputable HACCP certified suppliers, like Inland Seafood, is always the safest way to buy and consume raw oysters on the half shell.
East Coast Oysters (crassotrea virginica)
Native East Coast oysters are all the same species; grown sub tidally with smooth shells, and tend to be milder than those farmed from the West Coast, although their taste and texture vary with location. The cold-water temperatures of New England slow down metabolism, producing slightly crisp, sweeter oysters; expect meatier, flabbier oysters with more saltiness as you work your way down the coast into warmer waters.
Beausoleil (beautiful sun) oysters come to us from Maison BeauSoleil in Neguac, New Brunswick on Canada's east coast, hundreds of miles from touches of modern industry. The Beausoleil seeds are wild harvested from the ocean floor and then cultured in bags near the surface of the water. The gently rolling tides of the North Atlantic, with their consistent oxygen levels and steady flow of natural nutrients, work their magic so the oysters are ready to be harvested and packed by hand within three to five years. (The oysters are even placed cup down of course, to preserve the liquor.)
An extremely clean and deep-cupped oyster, the Beusoliel is prized for its high meat-to-shell ratio and unique, delicate taste that is said to have the same yeasty warm-bread aroma you get with good Champagne. This makes them the perfect starter oyster.
Blue Point Oysters are wild cultured along the Atlantic shores from Oyster Bay, Long Island to the mouth of the Delaware River. This signature oyster has nourished New York City for nearly 200 years, making resurgence in the restaurant scene nationwide through sustainable farming efforts in the 1990’s.
The seeds are set in floating trays along the dock, utilizing the strong current. The abundance of algae, phytoplankton, and select minerals in the Great South Bay result in the perfect environment for oyster growth. Blue Points are roughly three to four inches in diameter with a relatively round shell, pronounced cup and are known for their mildly salty flavor and distinct pine and anise notes most apparent in spring.
Malpeque oysters are the product of the nutrient rich waters of NW Prince Edward Island, Canada where production has grown in the past twenty years to rival Blue Points as the most popular East Coast oyster. These oysters start their growth in mesh plastic bags and are routinely manicured to promote cup definition. Once the oysters reach a more manageable size, they are transferred to leased areas around the Island and carefully manicured until they reach their trademark teardrop shape. A slower grown oyster, the Malpeque is still “harvested to order” by hand with large tongs, which have minimal impact upon the ecosystem and environment. Malpeque oysters range from 2-4 inches in size, and the longer growth period in these ideal conditions create a richer tasting oyster that is briny with the rich iron and mineral flavor.
Chincoteague oysters are storied predating the earliest settlements along the Chesapeake. In fact, it is written that the knowledge of harvesting and cooking oysters passed on from native tribes probably helped America’s first settlers through their first hard winters. Oysters in the region were traditionally harvested from the ocean floor by day boats using hand tongs, but have been replaced by more recent aquaculture method of seeding the oysters in cages for protection from damage. In fact, Chincoteague Bay was the first area in Maryland to embrace aquaculture on a widespread basis in place of wild harvesting, beginning shortly after the Civil War.
The clear, salty Atlantic water pours thru Chincoteague Inlet with each tide, providing local oysters an excellent environment for growth and giving them a distinctive, sweet and salty flavor.
The world renowned Wellfleet Oyster is grown and harvested in and from the estuaries of Wellfleet Harbor, located in the Northeastern region of Cape Cod Bay, MA. This current originates in northern Maine and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, and runs in a counter-clockwise fashion, delivering an unwavering flow of nutrients throughout coastal northern New England. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, the Wellfleet oyster beds had become over-fished. In an effort to remedy this situation, forward thinking locals sourced a small quantity of oysters from the Chesapeake Bay area. The seeds were placed in the local estuaries of Wellfleet Harbor as seed stock, and as anticipated, the oysters once again flourished in the waters of Cape Cod Bay. This event not only brought about the reintroduction of the Wellfleet oyster, but one of the major advancements of aquaculture in North America.
The salinity in Wellfleet Harbor is also relatively high compared to the more brackish waters of, for example, upper Chesapeake Bay. Experienced tasters find that oysters that grow in the saltier Massachusetts waters tend to have a cleaner, sharper flavor.
Island Creek oysters are raised in Duxbury, Massachusetts by Island Creek Oyster Company. More specifically, in western Duxbury Bay which is directly fed by the Cape Cod Bay. These oysters are “free range”, where the seedlings are transferred to a three-tiered rack and tray system which is moored to the floor of Duxbury Bay. During this stage of the grow-out, the Island Creeks are washed and shaken twice weekly; promoting deep cups with large yield. Island Creeks are typically three to four inches in length, and possess a medium salinity with an unmistakable sweetness and a hint of seaweed. The thick, hard shells makes the Island Creeks a dream to shuck, and lends the oysters an aesthetic presentation value that be appreciated by both your clients and theirs alike.
Southern/Gulf Oyster (Texas to Florida Panhandle)
Southern, warm water oysters are harvested in the Gulf of Mexico from Coastal Louisiana to the Florida panhandle, mostly in natural settings. In Louisiana, early French settlers were reported to have harvested oysters under instruction from local Indian tribes. As oysters have risen in popularity, the Gulf oyster became what many conceive to be the “stock” oyster you’d find at many raw bars and roasts. Oysters grow like weeds down in the Gulf, and with the invention of the dredging technique by Croatian fisherman in 1905, the Southern Gulf has become one of the most successful oyster harvest operations in the world. Due to the fact that the water never cools down significantly, the oysters never go dormant allowing a constant supply at a lower price point. This also means is that Gulf oysters don’t change in flavor much throughout the year as much as northern oysters, further enhancing its reliability.
Gulf oysters are sought for their large plump meat, with a hint of copper, owing their unique full flavor to the convergence of major rivers into the Gulf.
AmeriPure was established in 1995 in response to the eroding consumer confidence in raw shellfish. AmeriPure buys its oysters from selected harvesters across the Gulf Coast, with the overwhelming majority of fresh product coming from Louisiana, the largest oyster producing state in the country. The all-natural, in-shell treatment for these unopened raw oysters uses warm water and ice cold water to destroy any potentially harmful bacteria in the oysters. You can always tell Ameripure oysters by the rubber band on them that bears their seal. This is the only company that guarantees a 100% product yield. In appearance, AmeriPure oysters are much cleaner and free of the grit and mud that often accompanies unprocessed Gulf oysters. In terms of taste and texture, there is virtually no change whatsoever.
West Coast Oysters (crassostrea gigas)
The original oyster species native to the Pacific Northwest is the tiny Olympia, but through modern farming, harvesting techniques and Japanese infusion, new varieties have emerged; building a strong list of recognized names. Typically grown intertidally, most west coast oysters have rough, fluted shells (like the famed Kumamoto) and a plump meat with a sweet, subtle mineral flavor that is perfect for half-shell beginners. From Vancouver Island, to coastal California, Pacific oysters range from slightly fruity with a green-apple finish to crisp and lightly salty to full-on briny with a sublime steely aftertaste.
The small town of Fanny Bay, in Baynes Sound produced one of the first oysters from British Columbia to become widely available. Part of the Georgia Straits, this region is known for its oysters and sustainable aquaculture has been in full swing since the 1950’s. The shells are beautifully fluted, as we expect for a tray-raised oyster, and are known to be subject to some of the highest quality standards in the industry. Many chefs and industry professionals say you never get a bad Fanny Bay. The plump, firm flesh is salty and sweet due the fact the water is very cold, yielding substantial saltiness, copper undertones and a refreshing aftertaste similar to cucumber.
The famous “Kumo” (actually Crassostrea sikamea) originated in Kumamoto Bay on Kyushu, the southernmost island of Japan. The importation of these gems predates World War II. They are now harvested from Humbolt Bay, CA to Willipa Bay, WA. Our Kumos are grown by Taylor Shellfish in suspended floats close to the Pacific shore, with large amounts of fresh natural plankton and are harvested at low tide by hand. The Kumamoto is a very slow growing oyster and is recognized by its small (2-inch average) sculpted shell and deep cup that led to their inherent beauty and succulent flavor. The taste is mildly fruity; sweet with a slightly mineral finish and a rich buttery texture making the Kumamoto the perfect oyster for the west coast novice.
Chef Creek flows into the deep waters of Baynes Sound on the east side of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. Like many of the operations around Vancouver, these oysters are beach-cultivated in floating trays. Chef Creeks have the classic look: three-inch, skinny shells, not deep in cup, indicating fast growth in a suspended environment with good food supply. Produces a very plump and attractive meat with a big creamy flavor starting salty, moving to sweet and a melon-like finish.
This oyster is cultivated in one of British Columbia's more northerly oyster growing locations at the top of the Strait of Georgia, between Campbell River on central Vancouver Island and the mainland coast. These are tray-cultured oysters that go through a vigorous tumbling process to slow the growth and allow the cup to form and the shell to harden. Cortez oysters are harvested young at around 3 inches, lending a more subtle, mild salty flavor and very clean white shell.
Naked Roy’s Beach
These oysters with the funny name come from Samish Bay, tucked in Northern Puget Sound. So, who was Naked Roy? He was a character known for staking out a particular section of sand on Samish Bay and working on his full-body tan. The island coves to the north are deep and rocky, with fewer land influences making the North Puget ideal for long line suspension growth techniques used to produce Naked Roys and similar species. Oysters from North Puget Sound tend to be brinier than those of the South Sound and lighter flavor and strong melon aroma. The taste speaks of fruit and rhubarb.
Known at Inland by their funny trade name, the Hootenanny is raised on the Hood Canal side of Southern Puget Sound, WA. Similar to our other selections from Taylor Shellfish, the seeds are cultivated then transported to staked trays. There, the tidal wash and the bed terrain work in unison to manicure and harden the oyster’s shell. This southerly, sheltered side of the Sound contains seriously algae-thick waters, leading to well-fed, market-sized oysters in less than two years.
The shells of the Hood Canal oysters are deeply cupped, heavily fluted, and possess an aesthetic appeal that is sure to impress even the most finicky oyster connoisseur. Meats of the Hootenanny oysters are full, and the flavor profile is driven by the mineral laden shores and banks of the Canal with and the rich sea-weedy flavor the South Sound is famous for.
Still a newcomer to East Coast menus, the Kusshi (Japanese for precious) is all the rage out west, due to their small size and ultra-clean flavor. They are the creation of Keith Reid, a highly innovative grower in Deep Bay and Baynes Sound; the heart of Vancouver Island’s fertile inner coastline. A variation of a Fanny Bay Oyster, the Kusshi is grown in floating trays and tumbled very aggressively. This breaks off the thin growing edge and forces them to deepen and thicken their shells. The resulting oyster is sought after for its unusual cornucopia shape and stunning smooth purple-black shell that is almost as deep as it is long—just over two inches. Chefs are praising the Kusshi for its ultra-cleanliness, giving the consumer the ultimate in West Coast flavor notes; rich in salt and minerals with the classic chilled cucumber finish.
In 2009, Taylor Shellfish is proud to announce the birth of a brand-new oyster, the Shigoku (meaning “ultimate”). Under the guidance of Bill Taylor, himself, the Shigoku originates from Bay Center, a tiny town built on a peninsula that juts out into the oyster-friendly waters of Willapa Bay, WA. Spawned from the Willapa Bay oyster, farmers grow the Skigoku in floating bags, like many Pacific oysters, but these are attached to stationary lines and floats that rise and fall with the tides. This “tumbling” technique (a variation on British Columbia’s more labor-intensive Kusshi) continuously chips off the oysters’ growing edge and forces them to “cup up,” getting scoop-shaped and pushing against the limits of their shell as they grow in shorter period of time. (Let it be noted these soon to be classics are hand packed in a handsome wooden box stamped with the Japanese character for “Shigoku.”)* A light, clean taste of cucumber and salt, with a finish of water chestnut or Jerusalem artichoke.