A dozen native oysters on the half shell at Moran’s Oyster Cottage in Kilcolgan.
There is no flavor in the world like the firm, meaty texture and rich marine tang of the Ostrea edulis (native) oyster. They are one of the best things about an Irish winter--they are at their fattest in the coldest months.
And Moran’s Oyster Cottage may be the best place in the world to eat “native” oysters. The little oyster bar in Kilcolgan has produced quite a few of the world's top oyster shucking champions and nowhere are you likely to find more perfectly shucked oysters. The quality of the oysters is assured Kelly Oysters, the same firm that supplies the Galway Oyster Festival.
Known as “natives” in Ireland, plats in France, European flat oysters in the U.S., and by such place names as Belon and Colchester, this is the legendary oyster of the Emperor Nero, Henry VIII, and Brillat-Savarin.
Sadly this beloved oyster is rapidly disappearing.
Overfished and prone to disease, the species has been almost completely replaced commercially by the blander Pacific oyster (Crassostrea gigas). The vast majority of the Ostrea edulis oysters that are still being harvested come from Irish waters. Many of the Irish natives are shipped to France and England where they are relaid in famous locales for a while and then sold as Belons or Colchesters.
Cuan Beo, a Galway Bay non-profit dedicated to "reconnecting land and sea," has made the native oyster a special project. The group is documenting the native oyster fishery through its long history in Galway Bay. During this year’s Clarinbridge Oyster Festival the group put on a tasting of native oysters from six bays on the coast of Western Ireland. It was nothing short of amazing to compare the flavors of six different Irish natives.
Cuan Beo is one of many organizations working together in an international movement to revive the dwindling population of the Ostrea edulis species. While Cuan Beo concentrates on Irish waters, NORA (Native Oyster Restoration Alliance) has spearheaded efforts to rebuild the oyster population in the North Sea.
If you know this fabulous oyster, go have a dozen--forget about the steep price. If you have never tasted this amazing shellfish, put it on your bucket list.