The oyster season starts again in October and is celebrated in Falmouth at the annual Oyster Festival. Thanks to regional fishing practices in regions such as Cornwall we can continue to enjoy local varieties alongside their Pacific cousins....
The Romans can be credited with bringing the taste for oysters to Britain – evidence of shells of oysters, whelks, cockles, mussels and limpets have been found in Roman towns across the country, even as far as Hadrian's Wall! When our conquerors left these shores, the taste for these shelled delicacies left with them and there was little interest in oysters until the 8th century when they returned to favour and were enjoyed cooked with ale and pepper by rich and poor alike. The oyster continued to be regarded as a staple food during Victorian times, Dickens himself writing 'Poverty and oysters always seem to go together.' They mainly hailed from Sussex and continued to be transported over ground (as the Romans had done). However, in the 18th century the natural oyster numbers experienced a dramatic decline through over fishing and pollution in the water and only through artificial breeding were they prevented from complete extinction.
The oyster has seen somewhat of resurgence across the UK and Ireland over the last century. In Cornwall, fishing techniques are perhaps the most traditional in the world as motor engines are prohibited in the Port of Truro. Instead brightly coloured original gaff cutter rigs are used as fishing vessels, where it is only through deep knowledge of the harbour, sail and sea that the catch is naturally harvested in an attempt to protect stocks and the local natural habitat.
Now in its fifteenth year, the Falmouth Oyster Festival marks the start of the oyster dredging season. The plump Pacific oysters can be tasted alongside native cousins in local restaurants and at the Festival - which marks the start of the dredging season (runing through to March). Also at the festival local chefs will be on hand to offer interesting and unique recipes and there will be plenty of opportunities to try the local varieties and meet local characters! Native oysters from the Truro Oyster Fishery are prized throughout the UK, and are sold to customers across the South West, and throughout the country, with top London restaurants and hotels being supplied from our local waters.
The festival runs from 13th - 16th October 2011, however, local oysters can be enjoyed in the fantastic local seafood restaurants in Falmouth including:
The Wheel House
Upton Slip, Falmouth TR11 3DQ, England
Bistro De La Mer
Arwenack Street, Falmouth TR11 3JB, England
+44 (0)1326 316509 | www.bistrodelamer.com
46 Arwenack Street, Falmouth TR11 3JH, England
+44 (0)1326 212997 | www.hunkydoryfalmouth.co.uk/
Rick Stein's Seafood Bar
Discovery Quay, Falmouth TR11 3 AX, England
Falmouth Oyster Festival: http://www.falmouthoysterfestival.co.uk/index.html
If you are interested in visiting Falmouth and want to experience the oyster season, join Back-Roads Touring on their 'Corners of Cornwall' tour departing London on the 14th October.