The French are big consumers of oysters.

About 5 kilos per year per inhabitant!

Low in calories, rich in trace elements and vitamins, but above all tasty and iodized, oysters offer only benefits. Only, in front of the fishmonger's stall, the questions fuse: What caliber? Fine or special? Flat or hollow? From what origin? There are as many varieties as there are regions, so it's hard to know which ones to buy.

Appellation: fine or special?

"The first question you have to ask yourself is whether you want a fleshy or clear oyster", to denote the filling index of oysters. "Meaty ones have more chew, whereas in clear ones there will be almost nothing to eat inside."

They are sometimes found, respectively, under the terms "fine" and "special".

We owe this term to Marennes-Oléron, an oyster-farming area which established these two “vintages” corresponding to ripening.

While the "fine de claire" is matured for at least 28 days, it is at least 4 weeks for the "special de claire". These names have influenced all the oyster farmers who have thus adopted the term "fine" to designate sweet oysters, not very fleshy, and "special" for specimens more generous and long in the mouth. "When it comes to cooking, it's better to choose stages, otherwise there will be nothing left to eat inside.

Conversely, the fine is eaten raw, with a hint of lemon and vinegar ".

Variety: hollow or flat?

There are a good hundred species of oysters around the world, but French oyster farming is mainly based on the breeding of two varieties: the flat, also called Belon, rather round, with a tender flesh and very pronounced flavors on the palate, and the hollow, rather elongated shape, with white, gray or green flesh. The latter are the most consumed: "they represent between 80 and 90% of sales", in particular thanks to their rapid growth and their great ability to adapt to different environments.

Size: n ° 00 or n ° 4?

Then if you are asked if you want # 1, 3 or 4, it is simply the size of the mollusks. “You have to know that size has nothing to do with what's inside the oyster. The numbers range from 5 to 1 for hollow, and up to 0 and 00 for flat. We kept the weights of the time. " And they are inversely proportional. So, the smaller the number, the bigger the oyster. So a # 0 is four to five times bigger than a # 5. For the aperitif, we prefer a small size like n ° 5. For plain tasting, we opt for the medium size (n ° 3), which will please everyone, and if they are cooked, shellfish of larger sizes, n ° 0 or 1, will be more appropriate.

Salty or nutty taste?

Climate, water temperature, degree of salinity, nature of the seabed and the plankton it has consumed are all characteristics that will influence the flavor of the shellfish.

“The taste depends on the terroir. If you want a salty and tasty oyster, that of Brittany is saltier, more raw.

That of Normandy is very fleshy and salty, with a little nutty taste. If you want it to be even more salty, there is the Bouzigue. On the contrary, if you want a little salty, there is Charente-Maritime. For an oyster with character, we choose Saint-Vaast-la-Hougue, “quite saline, raw, with a taste that stays in the mouth for a very long time”.

Recognize a good oyster…

Once we have the oysters in front of us, we make sure that they are not yawning, "they must be closed". Another clue, "a health label indicating the approval number, the source ...". Once purchased, "if they go 'cloc cloc' in the bag, they should be changed: when they collide, they should not ring. Otherwise, it indicates that there is almost nothing inside, or only water. "

"It is not the quality of the oyster that influences its price, but the work that has been done".

… of a bad oyster

Seafood should be eaten fresh, it's essential if you don't want to be sick. And the first clue that intrigues is a very strong smell. Above all, the oyster must smell the good smell of the sea and iodine. If you are not hesitant, you can always check, with a simple trick: "We prick the oyster just opened with the tip of a knife. If it doesn't retract, then it's dead, don't eat it. It is a living product, to be consumed alive! ".