Barb and I had Katie and Jim over for an oyster tasting to compare the three Wellfleet oyster varieties that we carry. We all eat lots of oysters, but I thought it might be a good idea to do it together more regularly, so we can try to get a handle on the seasonal and micro-terroir/'merroir' variations among Wellfleet oysters. Jim brought a bottle of Polish Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka which we had shaken (not stirred) with ice- Good Start! It is very smooth and earthy flavored with a blend of the bison grass and potato and a nice accompaniment to oysters. We also sipped prosecco which is so crisp, light and refreshing that it is also a great compliment to oysters on the half shell in summer.
The shell characteristics, shape, color and of course taste of oysters grown in different areas within Wellfleet are remarkably different. Even oysters within a specific growing area vary in flavor with changes in season. Superimposed on these variations are genetic differences between seed that are started in a hatchery and seed collected from spawning in the wild. As a consequence, there is an overall flavor character for oysters from a particular growing bed but there are subtle variations with season and genetic variations.
Here are some general tasting notes.
Indian Neck- The Indian Neck oysters are rack cultivated from hatchery seed and exposed to currents from the open bay. They are very uniform, slightly oblong and deep cupped, relatively small and because they are so fast growing, quite thin shelled. As a consequence, they are a little harder to open but their flavor is superb. They were briny with a hint of sweet finish.
Lieutenant Island- These oysters are grown from naturally occurring seed in trays in an inlet near Lieutenant Island. They are heavy-shelled, oval to round, relatively large and have an excellent mild, creamy flavor with a salty liquor. The last time I had them, there was a very little hint of brine.
Old Wharf Point- Grown from natural seed, these oysters have irregular relatively heavy shells and a sweet, full flavor and a light briny finish.
There was some variation among individuals within growing areas due to spawning in the past month. Before the oysters have spawned they tend to be high in fat and very creamy flavored. As they spawn, some may have smaller meats, but are still very flavorful.