Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Oyster Road

The channel side of the Ile d'Oléron is lined with oyster farms. These are mostly rectangular ponds, called claires, in which oysters mature in cages. There really isn't much to see, except for the shacks where the oysters are worked on.

A retail outlet selling oysters, mussels, and island wines, as well the region's special apéritif, pineau des Charentes.

I believe that the claires are connected to the water by means of channels and canals to allow the tide to renew the water and provide food for the oysters. I don't know if oysters raised this way are "fed" by people or allowed to feed on whatever floats by.

Oyster cages are stacked on land until they're ready to be used.

Of course, we could have taken the time to go to the big oyster museum on the island, where I'm certain that every aspect of ostréiculture (oyster farming) would have been explained to us. But we wouldn't have been able to go with the dog, so we skipped it.

Baskets of oyster shells outside an oyster shack.

What I found on the web says that it takes about four years to raise an oyster. They spend the first year in bunches in the channel waters, then the tiny oysters are separated and put into the flat cages to mature, still in the open waters of the channel. It's only in their last three or four months before they're sold that they spend time in the claires.

3 comments:

  1. That is so interesting... I guess oysters have to come from somewhere, I just never thought about it. Well I also don't eat them, so maybe that has something to do with it ;-) Anyway, great photos!

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  2. Sounds great! Count me in for a moules-frites! I had a specialty apéro in La Rochelle. I can't recall what it was called. What lovely photos of the coast! I so enjoyed my time in La Rochelle and hop to Ile de Ré.

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  3. justin, you should try oysters some time, if you can. They're mighty good!

    rachael, unfortunately we didn't make it to La Rochelle because of the fishermen's strike - they were blockading some of the ports and we had planned to go by ferry.

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