What are my special features?
Colchester Native Oysters are harvested from September through to May in the shallow creeks off Mersea Island in Essex, north of the River Thames. The shell of the Colchester Native Oyster is flat and the flesh is firm with a rich salty fresh taste. The surrounding marsh fringed environments contribute to these taste characteristics.
The oysters are dredged from the River Blackwater and fattened in oyster beds or tanks, the location of these vary and can include creeks within the River Colne.
What is my history?
Colchester on the North and Whitstable on the South of the Thames estuary were seen as the most important areas for oyster production. The Romans were thought to have been the first to utilise oysters on a large scale within these areas. Oysters were in abundant supply until the late 1800’s when disease and price competition affected stocks.
Why am I forgotten?
The Colchester Oyster is more fragile than the Pacific oysters and, therefore, susceptible to changes in the surrounding environment. The oysters were greatly affected by the Bonamia parasite during 1982 and stock numbers are gradually increasing.
Stocks have suffered from periodic depletion and the possible pesticide run-off from farmland is seen as a contributing factor. Oystermen believe that global warming and the rising temperatures of the creek beds may be the greatest threat yet. In 2003, the oysters were threatened by the necessary, yet controversial, work undertaken by the Environment Agency to restore nearby marshlands.
Don’t lose me…cook me!
This Product has been supported by Graysons Restaurants, who are key sponsors of the Ark of Taste within the UK.
They have supported the following Ark of Taste products:
Blenheim Orange Apple
Laxtons Supperior Apple
English Ewes Milk Cheese (Berkswell)
English Raw Milk Cheese (Stichelton)
Shetland Black Potato
Barry Nichols, the Executive Head Chef of Graysons