photo of a plate of oysters

©iStockphoto.com/Zilli

oysters

Commercial Species

Chilean Oyster (Ostrea chilensis Philippi 1845)

A native of Chile, sometimes exported.

Eastern Oyster (Crassostrea virginica Gmelin 1791)

Eastern coast of North America and the Gulf Coast.

Shucked

Size Extra Large or
Counts
Large or
Extra Select
Medium or
Select
Small or
Standard
Very Small
No. in a pint less than 20 20–26 26–38 38–63 more than 63

FAO factsheet

European Flat or Belon Oyster (Ostrea edulis Linneaus 1758)

The original oyster of Europe. It is sometimes cultivated in North America, on both coasts.

French Belon oyster sizes
Number 4 3 2 1 0 00
Name petit moyen grand très grand
Weight in grams 40 50 60 75 90 100

FAO factsheet

Kumamoto Oyster (Crassostrea sikamea)

Imported from southern Japan (Nagasaki area) to the west Coast of North America.

 

Olympia (Ostrea conchaphilia)

The original West Coast oyster, almost wiped out by overfishing in the nineteenth century. Small. 

Pacific Oyster (Crassostrea gigas Thunberg 1793)

Native to northern Japan (Miyagi prefecture) In 1919 a load of dead oysters from Japan was dumped in Samish Bay, Washington.  Since an epidemic devastated the Portuguese oyster (Crassostrea angulata) between 1968 and 1972, Crassostrea gigas has become by far the most commonly cultivated oyster in France.

Reportedly exceptional individuals of this species have grown to 400 mm (15+ inches).

Shucked

Size Large Medium Small Extra Small
No. in
a pint
less than 8 8–12 12–18 more than 18

Live

The French designate sizes of “huîtres creuse” by numbers:

Number 5 4 3 2 1 0
Name petit moyen grand très grand
Weight in grams 30-45 46-65 66-85 86-110 111-150 >150

FAO factsheet 

another FAO factsheet 

from the Global Invasive Species databank

Portuguese oyster (Crassostrea angulata Lamarck 1818)

In the sixteenth century, Portuguese merchant ships returning from Asia accidentally introduced an Asian oyster to Portugal. In 1868, a cargo of supposedly dead oysters was dumped in the estuary of the Gironde River. They flourished. Many suspect that Crassostrea angulata and Crassostrea gigas are the same species.

Suminoe (Crassostrea ariakensis Fujita 1913)

Native to China.

Data gathered by NOAA and the U.S. Dept. of Commerce to support consideration of the introduction of this species in the Chesapeake Bay. Links and a bibliography.

Sydney Rock Oyster (Saccostrea glomerata Gould 1850)

Native to New South Wales. Formerly called Saccostrea commercialis (Iredale and Roughley 1933). Australian species code: 00 653001.

FAO factsheet

Affinage grades in France

Aerial photograph of claires

Courtesy Dépsrtement Charente-Maritime

Claires are shallow salt water ponds

Huîtres creuses

Huîtres Fines

Huîtres Fines de Claires -- at least 3 weeks in the claires at a maximum density of about 20 oysters per square meter.

Huîtres Spéciales de Claires -- about 2 to 4 months in the claires at a density of 5 to 10 oysters per square meter.

bien en chair

bien equilibrées

bien en eau

Further Reading

Eleanor Clark.
The Oysters of Locmariaquer.
Pantheon Books, 1964.

Allan Ovenden Collard.
The oyster and dredgers of Whitstable... published with the sanction of the Whitstable Oyster Fishery Company.
London: Joseph Collard, 1902.

Rowan Jacobsen.
A Geography of Oysters. The Connoisseur's Guide to Oyster Eating in North America.
Bloomsbury, 2007.

Mark Kurlansky.
The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell.
Ballantine Books, c 2006.

John R. Philpots.
Oysters, and all about them.  A complete history of the titular subject, exhaustive on all points of necessary and curious information from the earliest writers to those of the present time, with numerous additions, facts, and notes. 2 volumes.
London: John Richardson and Co., 1890-1891.

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