Marennes-Oléron, the pearl of French oysters

Between fresh and salt water, the Marennes-Oléron basin, 3 hectares, provides nearly half of national production. On this basin are practiced the spat collection, the rearing of young oysters then their refining in the clear. The Marennes-Oléron oyster is the only one in France to benefit from a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

Duration ofe life of an oyster

The life of an oyster is short. From its hatching to its often recalcitrant opening with a knife, a trifle of three years, four at the most. This passage at sea and on land merges with the natural elements of a landscape drawn by the Seudre estuary, shaped by two centuries of oyster farming. Here, in a vast wet diamond formed by Tremblade and Marennes (in the center), L'Eguille to the south and Le Château d'Oléron to the north, separated from the mainland by the Pertuis de Maumusson, the particularity of the environment offers the mollusk the possibility of completing its entire growth cycle. .

Harvesting, breeding then refining in clear

From the first stage of the process, the ecosystem is conducive to the development of spat collected at sea. In summer, the breeding season par excellence, the water temperature is ideal (20°C on average). The balanced proportion between fresh and salt water contributes to the richness of the elements transported by the Seudre estuary. This combination today makes Marennes-Oléron, one of only two areas of collection of cupped oysters in France

The cupped oyster was gradually introduced into France from the XNUMXth century to compensate for the shortage offlat oysters. This first strain of Portuguese origin, decimated by a virus in 1967, was replaced by an oyster imported from Japan. Near Royan, the bay of Bonne Anse , An environment protected from currents and strong tides, has for a very long time been a privileged site for the collection of juveniles that are quick to come and settle on the collectors, supports installed near the banks.

After a period in the "nursery" at the height of the estuary, cultivation begins on the foreshore, a transition zone between the land and the ocean, periodically submerged by the waves depending on thetide times in Charente-Maritime. The operation consists of pocketing thousands of young oysters on a series of raised tables. During this phase, the bivalves drink plankton and mineral salts distributed by the sea.

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In these parks, the task of the oyster farmer is not easy

At the ebb, he comes back to regularly clean, empty and turn the bags in order to facilitate the circulation of water through their meshes and rebalance their content.

This regular mixing allows the oysters to develop independently of each other.

The secrets of the Charente oyster

Why the green oyster?

The last step is a technique specific to the Marennes-Oléron basin: refining in claires. These clay fields, ancient salt marshes where the sea water joins the gentle flows of the Seudre. In these basins, the oyster is perfected. Its shell hardens and its flesh firms up on contact with phytoplankton. It is also impregnated with terroir, one of the visible manifestations of which is reflected in a green color, the result of its encounter with the navicula, a blue algae which mixes with the yellow of its gills. This distinctive sign gives rise to a specific designation: the “Fine by Claire Verte”, one of the four oysters produced in the Marennes-Oléron sector, the only ones in France to benefit from a Protected Geographical Indication (PGI).

Green oysters from Marennes Oléron

This categorization corresponds to the passage time of the shellfish in the clear of the region and to the particular conditions in which its culture took place there, so many criteria which condition its shape, its texture and its taste.

  • La "End of Claire" (28 days in the tank), not very fleshy but rich in marine aromas
  • La “Fine by Claire Verte” with a delicate flavor, certified Red Label
  • La "Claire's Special", rounder and more consistent
  • La “Push in Claire” with a more pronounced taste, more fleshy, a property that it owes to its long stay in the marshes (4 to 8 months) and to its low density refining technique (5 oysters per m² maximum), also certified Red Label

How to choose your oysters?

The size of the oyster, also called caliber, is defined by a number from 0 to 5 for cupped oysters and from 0 to 6 for flat oysters. The smaller the number, the more oyster size is tall. Small size oysters, #4 or #3, are less fleshy (46 to 65 g for oyster n°4 and 66 to 85 g for oyster n°3) and constitute a good choice for a first tasting.

Oysters Naissin Claire from Seudres

Where to eat oysters?

Most Destination Royan Atlantique restaurants offers Marennes-Oléron oysters on their menu. Indeed, 7 towns in the area are part of the geographical production area: La Tremblade, Arvert, Étaules, Chaillevette, Breuillet, Mornac-sur-Seudre and L'Eguille. To taste a platter of oysters in an authentic setting, the ideal is to go to the banks of the Seudre in a oyster hut to appreciate its freshness, direct from the producer.

At the dawn of the end-of-year celebrations, activity is in full swing among oyster farmers. Share a moment of the daily life of the family business Yves Papin Oysters at La Tremblade.

Length of the video: 2 minutes 31

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