As all my friends know, I am a seafood fiend and succulent oysters are at the top of my list. Navigating one’s way through the sea of oyster varieties, however, can be a daunting task.
From texture and flavor to the shell its self, no oyster is alike. Flavors can range from the mineral and musky, to briny or fruity and mainly depend on the waters in which they are found. The cool, salty waters of the East Coast tend to produce oysters that are crisp, clean and mild tasting with higher salinity levels then those from other areas. West Coast oysters are grown in warmer waters with continually changing tides. These conditions give West Coast oysters their rugged shells and hearty flavor.
The East vs. West Coast oyster debate is only the beginning when trying to decide which bivalves to order. With names like Naked Cowboy to Raspberry Point, the dozens of varieties can be confusing to figure out.
High seasonality will determine which of the bivalves are available at any point but here are a few of my favs:
Tatamagouche: These wild oysters come from the waters of Nova Scotia and are large and ivory colored with a bold nutty flavor and and a briny finish.
Malpeque: Big, bold, light-bodied and with a clean finish. Harvested off of Prince Edward Island, Malpeque’s have a great balance of sweetness and brine.
Hama Hama: Hama’s are a large meaty oyster, perfect for making a meal. The waters of Hood Canal and Puget sound provide for a strong firm vegetal flavor with a clean end.
Malaspina: These oysters are plump and juicy with a strong flavor and are found off the coast of British Columbia.
Colville Bay: Colville Bay’s are known for their distinct jade shell. Found off the coast of Prince Edward Island, these oysters have a crunchy texture, nutty flavor and zesty finish.
The above are just a few of my preferred varieties but I have yet to find an oyster I do not enjoy. I like them clean with nothing more than a squirt of lemon. One of my best friends swears by the addition of Tabasco. Whether you go all out with hot sauce, prefer cocktail or have some other way to enjoy the briny bivalves, oysters make for a great treat.
For a far more comprehensive collection, visit Rowan Johnson’s OysterGuide which provides great details and descriptions on dozens of oysters from both the East and West Coasts.