When you love oysters and Carrefour invites you to discover where they supply their oysters from in Normandy, there is only one answer: oui! Despite the potential rain, the potential cold winds, the potential early morning. Nothing put me off from participating in such a unique discovery trip.
Normandy is not next door. Afte almost 8h roadtrip, we arrived just in time for our dinner at 1 star Michelin restaurant in Blainville-sur-Mer (it might sound like it, but no, we don’t get to dine in Michelin star restaurants all the time … but when we do, l-o-v-e!) . I will not go into the details of our dinner, but a review of the dinner will follow in a future post, no worries.
After a great dinner geting to know each other, tasting French cuisine and drinking French wines, it was time for bed. Because the next day early morning … ta da, after a bumpy ride on the back of a tractor we found ourselves deep into the oyster farms of Normandy.
As much as I love oysters and have been enjoying them for years … I. Had. No. Idea! No idea how oysters are grown, how long they mature for, how they are harvested, how they make it to our tables. An amazing discovery. Kind of Discovery Channel meets National Geographic meets Belgian bloggers sort of thing.
Without going into all the technical details, what I learned on this trip to Normandy is that:
- oyster farming is not an easy job! The rain and cold winds of Normandy alone. The manual labour. The natural conditions of sea tides. Add to this 2-3 years until oysters get to be harvested and you get the picture.
- oysters are farmed in wire cages as their shell starts growing and they get harder but also attached to each other. Rows upon rows of wire cages filled with oysters waiting for the salty sea water to flow in … then flow out … in … out … all to help oysters become so delicious
- oysters (European and Olympia) are hermaphrodites thus can fertilize themselves.
Of course we also got to taste the Normandy / Carrefour oysters. Probably the earliest I ever had an oyster if I am honest … sometimes around 10:30. Breakfast really. Harvested about 50m from where I was standing. Later however, in the sorting factory, we got to taste the real deal – oysters and Muscadet. Yes, we did have a lot of oysters.
5 fun foodie facts about oysters:
- there are 4 different oyster varieties in France – one flat and three hollow: fine de claire, speciale de claire, pousse en claire.
- the main oyster growing regions are Normandy, Brittany, Loire, Poitou-Charentes, Arcachon-Aquitaine and the Mediterranean seaside.
- most of the oyster farmers in France are organized in ‘associations’ and together they supply 90% of the European market, which equal to about 100 000 tons per year.
- oysters are classified by size and number: the smaller the number the bigger the shell – a no. 5 can weigh around 30gr while a no. 1 can reach around 150gr. And they get sorted by experienced hands, which have been doing this for year.
- matching drinks with oyster has never been more fun than in these days – white wine, red wine, whiskey, Guinness … there is a drink for every oyster.
Carrefour offers a whole range of French oysters. Amongst which the ones we tasted, the Krystale from Normandy. Oysters are fine to eat all year long, but I do think they taste best when it is a bit colder (and an old French saying says you should only eat oysters in the months with R). We regularly buy and eat Carrefour oysters when we have a dinner party – packed by the dozen, easy to open, always making an impact. Which is why I was very excited to discover the recently launched Carrefour Krystale Tapas – a very nicely packaged box of 6 oysters, the shallots/ vinegar juice that goes with them, an oyster knife hey presto! Look out for them in your local Carrefour. In my opinion they make the best apero (gift).
I also take this opportunity to share with you my first video (in FR), recorded in Normandy, where we learn all about the hardening of the oyster shell. Apologies for the sound (which immerses you into the wind …)
I would like to extend our thanks to Carrefour for organising this visit and for all the oyster farmers for hosting us and dealing with our endless questions and cameras with grace.
Disclaimer: as always, all opinions written are our own.
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