French oysters are mainly cultivated in four major areas – Normandy, Brittany, Atlantic shore and the coast of Mediterranean Sea. Each area has its own main producing area and oyster farms, namely St-Vaast, Cancale, Marennes-Oleron.
Each farmer has his own way of cultivation. Take Huitres Helie oyster farm in Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue as example, oyster farmer Xavier places the oyster seedlings in cage, giving them protection in the open water and securing them from floating away. The oysters are then being struck every day for 3 to 4 years by the strong sea currents until they are grown enough to be put in a purifying pond before packaging.
Cupped oyster (huitre creuse) is a species that originated from the Pacific Ocean. In the 70s, French farmers brought in the farming techniques and optimized the process and now, huitres creueses it the most commonly found species, taking up 90% of the French oyster market. Oyster cultivation requires high dedication and skills, one oyster lost is one less oyster a farmer can sell for income. Therefore, oyster growers would invest in integrating farming procedures to cultivate oysters that have high meat ratio – Speciale oysters.
Huitres plate is the renowned flat oyster, commonly known as the European flat oyster Belon. They can only be called Belon if it comes from the particular river (Belon river) in Brittany, usually finished in special walled ponds (claires), in the clear waters of Belon river, a process the French called “affinage”. Distinct from the commonly found Rock oysters, true Belon oysters are flat and round, with a strong flavor reminiscent of brine and an intense copper finish. The best months to taste this rare gem are between September to March, don’t forget to grab the limited opportunity!
The Saint-Vaast La Hougue oyster farm is located in the two bays protected by Tatihou Island and the La Hougue peninsula. The richness and freshness of the water brought by the strong sea currents from the ocean, the proximity of the Gulf Stream, the warm and rich water, have given the Saint-Vaast oyster its outstanding quality with smooth taste that has made its reputation over the years.
Taste: good balance of salinity and sweetness
Texture: plump and sweet
Origin: Saint Vaast La Hougue, France