Despite a recent row over oyster sizing, the Fal oyster which is smaller than its Pacific farmed counterpart, has been nothing but big news in Cornwall.
After receiving a PDO (Protected Designation of Origin) in November 2013 to regulate and standardise production, this smaller, bluer and more mineral-tasting mollusc is one of the few remaining native oysters in the UK, and the only wild one of its kind.
A law dating from 1868 means that the oysters can only be harvested using sail boats or row boats making the port of Truro the last port in the world to be made up entirely of wind or man-powered vessels.
Standard farmed Pacific oysters are fat and white with a creamy finish in the mouth, ideal for more brutal treatment such as bread-crumbing and frying but the delicate colouring and taste of the smaller Fal oyster make it a much sought-after gourmet seafood, ideal for dousing in shallot vinegar and swallowing raw.
The taste has been described as anything from copper to lettuce, melon to cucumber. The uniqueness and delicacy of the product, not to mention the narrative of the harvesting, is driving the current demand (and subsequent controversy) to fish only for bigger specimens to fuel the London market.
According to Slow Food UK however, the new isn’t all good: “Despite sustainability measures and the abundant supply, the Fal Oyster risks extinction due to a variety of factors. The oysters are threatened by overfishing of minimum size oysters, water quality during the summer months, invasive species (slipper limpet), capital dredging near the fishery and the selling price.”
Ironically, the best way to preserve the Fal oyster is to consume it. And what better way to partake than in an oyster party?
The weekend of the 28 – 30 March is the biggest Gathering so far, featuring a marquee and a very special pop-up restaurant as well as three days of local food producers, chefs and entertainers.
Friday 28th 0900-2200
Local Fishermen, Top Chefs, Traditional Sailing Vessels & Sea Shanties
Saturday 29th 0900-2200
Local Fishermen, Top Chefs, Pewter Oyster Race & Live Bands
Sunday 30th 1000-1800
Local Fishermen, Top Chefs, British Summer Time & Mother’s Day
For more information on the event go to faloyster.co.uk, follow @faloyster and @popupgatherings for the latest news on the event.
For more on oysters in Cornwall and France go to saffronbunny.com
Slow Food Chef Alliance Starter Fal Oyster Cerveche by Andy McFaddon L’Autre Pied. Photo by Ranger 2013