The story of Marennes Oléron oysters begins Roman times. The great families of the empire paid fortunes to import them for banquets. Then at the table of Kings in Versailles, the french Regent, Philippe d’Orléans, paired them with Champagne.
In the middle of the 19th century, when the salt producing marshes became obsolete and were reclaimed, the modern history of the Marennes Oléron oysters truly begins.
Oysters reproduce in summer. Each animals lays at least a million eggs which become larvae after fertilisation. If temperature, salinity and other conditions are right, they set after fifteen days and become a young oyster called a “spat”. Oyster farmers place “collectors” in the ocean to gather them where the young settled oyster begins feeding and growing. The basins of Marennes Oléron and Arcachon are the only two places in France where oysters reproduce naturally.
At one year old the spat is detached from its collector, this is the “détroquage”.
After “détroquage”, the oyster is placed in ocean – oyster farms where it remains for two years. During its growth the oysters are carefully watched over. Oysters are moved from a place to an other one. The role of the tides and quality of farms are essential in the growing stage.
Finishing or Growing in “Claires”
“Claires” are shallow ponds dug into the seiment about one meter deep once used for salt farming. The water is renewed by the tides. The oysters are either cultured in this manner (“called “pousse en claire”) or finished like this (called “fines de claire” or “spéciales de claire”) depending on the time they spend in the Claire and the number of oyster per square meter.
Finishing in claires is a Marennes Oléron practice and is unique in the world
Finishing in “claires”, with a protected geographical status, is a true speciality of the Marennes Oléron basin and extends over 3000 hectares between the Seudre river and the Island of Oléron.
Claires finishing provides an environment rich in minerals and the nutriments needed for phytoplankton, food source of the oysters.
Occasionally, the lining of certain pools can be covered with an algae called “naviculus” which produces a natural blue pigment. The oyster, in filtering the water of the pool adopts in tern this pigmentation and the gills become tinged with green (yellow of the gills plus the blue of the algae).
Oysters finished in claires have a better capacity for retaining water at low tide and therefore conserve better after harvesting. The shells have no exterior parasite and a smooth mother of pearl interior.
The oyster benefits from a know-how transmitted from generation to generation in a territory which is unique in the world and gives it its celebrated fine flavour.
4 Marennes Oléron oysters categories:
Fine de Claire
Fine de Claire Verte
Spéciale de Claire
Pousse en Claire
Just as vineyards bring character to certain wines, the Claire has the effect on oysters of natural exchanges and conditions which are never identical, depending on exposition, location and so on.
What are the main benefits?
- Low calorie food (as low in fat as fish)
- Oysters called “grasse” (fat) have a low lipid content and are high in glycogen, a reserve sugar.
- A dozen oysters is an ideal alternative to meat or fish, with proteins of excellent quality
- Three to four times less cholesterol than meat
- Source of calcium and phosphorus necessary for the construction and maintenance of bones
- Oligoelements such as zinc, selenium and copper : anti-oxidants which protects tissues and slow aging
- Food source which combats fatigue
- Compensates mineral loss in iron and copper