Oysters in Spain
by The Tapas Lunch Company
From the TLC Blog
I confess I have only eaten oysters once, and that was in Dublin. The results put me off oysters. Possibly for life. But I really should try Spanish oysters. After all, what other food not only changes sex, but has proven aphrodisiac powers?
As early as the 16th century Galician oysters were popular among the more wealthy Spaniards. Then they were marinated and sent in the form of ostras en esabeche from Vigo to the royal court in Madrid. Strangely, today, oysters are virtually unheard of along the Galician coast - despite the fact these waters offer the best seafood on offer in Spain.
So it is that oyster farms have popped up aplenty in Galicia and elsewhere. Different varieties of the mollusk have been nurtured on these farms for decades. The chief type of oyster now being bred in Galicia is the ostrea edulis and it originates from France. Oysters from Portugal and Japan are also being farmed in Spain. The bays along the Galician coast are being used for oyster breeding. The Atlantic ocean waters are ideal for the process. That is because these French oysters would need four years to reach harvesting size in French waters; the ideal water temperatures in the Atlantic, and the ready supply of food found in Galician bays, ensures that they can be harvested in as little as two years.
Oysters can process up to 20 litres of water an hour, to filter out the nutrients and ultimately add to both their size and flavour. And, unlike in France, it's size that matters in Spain. Galicians will choose their oysters based on the size. The largest, with the most flesh, are very sought after. Around the city of Vigo you will find ostrerias, large stores specialising in selling oysters both large and small. During the week you will find so called oyster women, ostreras (as photographed above); selling fresh oysters in the area known as oyster alley, the Ria da Pescadería, close to the ferry port of Vigo. As the finest white wine to be found anywhere in Spain is produced in Galicia; you must join the locals in having a glass or two of Albariño wine with your oysters.
That is preferable to the suggestion offered to me by an expat who has lived in Galicia for many years. Alan Edmonds claimed my illness in Ireland will have been down to the accompanying glass of Guinness, and not the oysters (he's wrong, it wasn't). Alan told me: "There is only one way to eat oysters. Wash them down with a nice glass of sea water." You must be having a laugh, was my reply. He wasn't! If I am brave enough to venture into oyster territory one more time, i will do so at one of the many excellent restaurants on offer throughout Galicia. They offer oysters on their menus in various recipes. Popular is ostras a la viguesa, oysters with mushrooms. Meanwhile marinated oysters (ostras en escabeche) are considered to be a great delicacy.
And that is one thing I don't wish to feel after I summon up the courage to eat oysters next time around - delicate!