AN INTRODUCTION TO IRISH OYSTERS
The oysters provided by the Galway International Oyster & Seafood Festival are Galway Native Oysters or ostrea edulis supplied by Kelly Oysters.
Ostrea edulis (European flat oyster/Belon) is the oyster lovers favourite, and is native to our Irish shores. Long ago there was such an abundance of these oysters that they were a readily available source of free food during the Great Irish Famine in the 19th century but now Galway is one of the few areas in Ireland that they can be found. They are in season from September to April when there is an 'R' in the month and the festival was originally created to celebrate the new oyster season each September.
Kelly Oysters are based at Dunbulcan Bay near Kilcolgan, south of Galway city. The bay is one of the most environmentally protected areas in Europe and the native oyster still grow wild with those of 5 years being harvested each year for the festival. The location, as well as having class ‘A’ waters, is one of wonderful beauty. The unique combination of flinty fresh water from the adjacent limestone landscape of The Burren and the earthy water from the turf bogs mixed with the cold Atlantic Ocean combine to create the unique flavour of the Galway Native Oyster.
Ireland is also home to the Pacific Oyster, also called Rock Oyster (Crassostrea Gigas) which is widely available all year round due to our cooler climate. Since oysters are reared in the wild, they take their food from the waters they are grown in - and Ireland is surrounded by mile after mile of pure, unspoilt, naturally fertile waters. Bays which are used for Oyster Farming are regularly tested by the Marine Institute of Ireland and certified suppliers are strictly regulated so that the utmost quality is delivered time after time.
Below are some tasting notes from Julie Qiu – self professed ‘Oyster lover & aficionado, bivalve blogger’
IRISH OYSTER TASTING NOTES
I was pleasantly surprised to discover the sensational oysters of Ireland while traveling abroad. Ireland produces both flat (“Belon”) oysters and Pacific oysters. My favorites are actually the Kelly Galways.
Kelly Galway — flat shell, firm texture, rich & smooth, soy flavors, metallic finish
Donegal — farmed gigas, creamy white meat, earthy and slightly nutty, soft texture
Galway Bay —salty splash, pronounced steely-mineral flavors, jelly-like body, savory finish of seaweed
Tryana Bay —a delicious saltiness that leaves the mouth craving for sweet, seaweed flavor, slightly nutty (cashews?)
Julie has travelled the world tasting oysters from 6 continents and has listed Kelly Oysters in Galway in her top 5 favourite oysters.