oyster farming

Discover the Art of Oyster Farming in Carlingford

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Updated on March 20, 2024

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Carlingford, a small Irish town, is the undisputed capital of oyster farming in the world. Here, oyster farming is not just a business, it’s an art form passed down through generations. Kian’s family, the stewards of this tradition, have elevated the practice to a level of precision and attention to detail that’s almost surgical. They’ve mastered techniques that allow their oysters to grow to four distinct sizes, each with its own unique flavor profile.

However, there’s a lot more to this story. Behind the scenes, the process of packing, purifying, and storage plays a crucial role in ensuring the oysters reach your plate in their freshest form. What changes are in store as they shift from selling in bulk to creating their own brand?

Origins of Carlingford Oyster Farming

httpss://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XY6tRNDoJqw

Carlingford’s journey into oyster farming began with Kian’s father, who instilled in his son a deep appreciation for the craft as they worked side by side throughout Kian’s school and college years. This marked the inception of a tradition that would carry profound historical significance.

The father-son duo’s efforts not only enhanced the methodology of oyster farming in Carlingford but also safeguarded its cultural traditions. They meticulously cultivated an understanding of the oyster’s life cycle, their interaction with the marine environment, and the art of harvesting them at the right time.

This knowledge, coupled with a deep respect for the oysters and their habitat, has allowed Carlingford to become synonymous with quality oyster farming, a testament to their adherence to time-honored practices.

Techniques in Oyster Cultivation

oyster farming

Delving into the heart of oyster cultivation, we find a series of meticulously honed techniques that Kian and his team employ to ensure the superior quality of their oysters. Their innovative oyster farming techniques, which prioritize sustainability, are key to their success.

They’ve developed unique oyster cultivation practices, such as turning bags and using floats, which facilitate uniform growth and enhance the overall quality of the oysters. Central to their operation is a dedication to sustainability, ensuring the longevity of their farm and the health of the ecosystem.

The benefits of such approaches are palpable, not just in the taste of the oysters, but also in the reduced environmental impact. Their methods are a testament to the potential of targeted, mindful innovation in oyster farming.

The Process of Oyster Grading

Building on their sustainable cultivation techniques, Kian and his team also employ a meticulous grading process to ensure the uniform growth and quality of their oysters. This involves sorting oysters into various categories based on their growth stages and size variations. They’ve established a system that promotes equal growth opportunities for each oyster, alleviating competition for resources.

Oyster shell recycling is another integral part of their sustainable practices. Used shells are returned to the sea, providing necessary calcium for juvenile oysters and enhancing the marine ecosystem. This circular approach also contributes to the formation of new oyster reefs.

Through a combination of sustainable practices and diligent grading, Kian’s team is able to consistently produce high-quality, flavorful oysters, a testament to their mastery of oyster farming.

Harvesting and Reseeding Cycles

oyster farming

In the cyclical rhythm of oyster farming, Kian’s team implements strategic harvesting and reseeding practices to optimize oyster growth. Harvesting coincides with the peak of oyster maturation, ensuring a sustainable yield that maintains the population’s health. This is crucial for both the quality of the harvest and the environment.

Following harvesting, Kian’s team employs precise reseeding techniques. Young oysters, or ‘spat’, are carefully introduced to the farm, kickstarting the next cycle of growth optimization. These reseeding techniques, coupled with meticulous monitoring, ensure the steady development of the oysters. By understanding the ebb and flow of oyster farming, Kian’s team elevates the practice to an art form, balancing sustainability with growth for the ultimate yield.

Preparing Oysters for Consumption

Once the oysters have been harvested and reseeded, Kian’s team turns their attention to preparing these marine delicacies for consumption. The process begins with the mastering of shucking techniques. This involves carefully prying the oyster open, ensuring the briny liquor inside isn’t lost, as it significantly enhances the taste. The team’s expertise in shucking ensures each oyster is ready to deliver its full, rich flavor.

Next, the team considers flavor pairings. They understand that the taste of oysters can be complemented and enhanced with the right accompaniments. They recommend pairing with a squeeze of lemon, a dash of hot sauce, or a spoonful of onion vinaigrette. These pairings not only enhance the oyster’s taste but also provide an elevated gastronomic experience.

The Journey From Wholesale to Brand

oyster farming

Kian’s oyster business underwent a significant transition, evolving from merely selling their harvest in bulk to wholesalers, to establishing their own recognizable brand in the oyster market. This shift involved deeply strategic brand development and clever marketing strategies.

The new direction allowed them to cultivate direct customer relationships, fostering a sense of brand loyalty never achievable in wholesale dealings. The journey wasn’t smooth, but with a steadfast commitment to quality and consistency, Kian’s brand steadily grew in reputation and reach.

The transformation from wholesale to brand wasn’t only about increasing profits; it was a strategic move to protect the value of their craft and the unique quality of Carlingford oysters, ensuring their legacy for generations to come.

Market Expansion and Collaboration

Branching out from their home base in Carlingford, the team sought to expand their market reach and began collaborating with customers in Ireland, the UK, and Asia. They diligently studied market trends and introduced innovations to meet the demands of their growing clientele.

This expansion wasn’t just about profits, it was a cultural exchange too. They learned about diverse culinary preferences and adapted their oyster farming techniques accordingly. The partnerships they formed during this process weren’t only beneficial for business, but also fostered an exchange of ideas and practices.

This market expansion and collaboration strategy is an integral part of their business model, positioning them not just as oyster farmers, but as ambassadors of their craft.

Economic and Environmental Impacts

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As they expanded their markets and collaborated with diverse cultures, the team also recognized the significant economic and environmental impacts of their oyster farming practices. They introduced economic benefits locally by providing jobs and supporting the livelihoods of communities around Carlingford. Their brand’s expansion into international markets also contributed to economic growth.

The team’s commitment to sustainable farming practices emphasized environmental sustainability. Oysters, being filter feeders, help clean the water, promoting biodiversity and ecological balance. The team’s responsible approach ensured the preservation of the marine environment.

Thus, oyster farming, when conducted responsibly, presents a harmonious blend of economic prosperity and environmental stewardship.

Discovering Unique Oyster Flavors

Delving into the world of oyster flavors, one quickly realizes the taste of these mollusks is as diverse as their origins, with different dressings and preparations further enhancing their unique profiles.

Upon exploring flavor pairings, it’s evident that each oyster’s flavor is shaped by its environment, a concept known as ‘merroir’. Just as wine adopts flavors from its terroir, oysters too absorb nuances from the waters they inhabit.

Tasting techniques also play a crucial role in appreciating these delicate flavors. A proper slurp, followed by a thoughtful chew, releases the full spectrum of salty, sweet, and umami notes.

The Carlingford oysters, for instance, possess a distinctive, robust flavor, a perfect balance of creaminess and salinity, testament to the fertile Irish waters they call home.

Recipes and Dressings for Oysters

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Building on the understanding of unique oyster flavors, exploring various recipes and dressings for oysters can further elevate the culinary experience. Flavor pairings such as oysters with a fresh squeeze of lemon or a dash of hot sauce can introduce a tangy kick, while a classic mignonette sauce brings a sharp, vinegary contrast.

The art of oyster consumption isn’t just about the shellfish itself, but also in the dressing variations and taste exploration. For those who desire a more elaborate culinary experience, grilled oysters with herbed butter or oysters Rockefeller offer a richer flavor profile. It’s all about personal preference and the joy of discovery.

Recommended Oyster Menu Options

Exploring the recommended oyster menu options can truly be a feast for the senses, offering an opportunity to relish the rich and varied flavors of these marine delicacies.

The taste exploration begins with a classic oyster pairing of lemon or mignonette sauce, highlighting the oyster’s natural briny flavor.

For a more adventurous palate, consider options like oysters Rockefeller, which sees oysters baked with a rich mixture of spinach, butter, and breadcrumbs.

Oyster stew offers a comfortingly creamy option, while raw oysters served on the half shell remain a timeless choice.

Regardless of the preparation, the key lies in the quality of the oyster itself – a testament to the skilled farmers of Carlingford who cultivate these treasures of the sea.

Experiencing Carlingford’s Oyster Farm

oyster farming

While enjoying the diverse oyster menu options is a culinary delight, visiting Carlingford’s Oyster Farm offers a truly immersive experience into the world of oyster farming.

You’re not just observing, you’re participating in an oyster tasting session. It’s there you’ll encounter the subtle nuances in flavour that differentiate each oyster, savouring their briny, sweet, or creamy profiles.

To elevate this experience, expertly selected wine pairings are provided, enhancing the intricate flavours of the oysters.

Beyond the tasting, you’ll get a glimpse into the farming process, understanding the care and technique that goes into nurturing these marine delicacies.

The culmination of this experience leaves you with a newfound appreciation for oysters, enriching your future culinary adventures.

Engaging With Oyster Farmers

Beyond the allure of tasting and touring, engaging directly with the oyster farmers of Carlingford provides a unique opportunity to gain firsthand insight into the intricacies of the industry. Farmer interactions reveal the passion and methodology behind their craft, while also offering industry insights which are otherwise inaccessible. Visitors are welcomed to ask questions, explore, and understand the nuances of sustainable farming.

Alongside this, tasting tours present an occasion to savor the fruits of their labor. The oysters, fresh from the lough, can be experienced in their most raw and natural state, often complemented by wine pairings carefully chosen to enhance the flavors. The combination of these enriching experiences fosters a deep appreciation for the oyster farming industry.

Appreciating Local Oyster Producers

oyster farming

Engaging directly with Carlingford’s oyster farmers not only enriches the understanding of oyster farming, but also underscores the importance of appreciating and supporting local oyster producers.

As a cornerstone of community engagement, supporting local businesses bolsters sustainability initiatives, fostering a healthier ecosystem. These farmers, through their painstaking work, create unique flavor profiles that are a delight to explore in culinary adventures.

The perfect wine pairings further enhance these flavors, offering a well-rounded visitor experience. Factory tours provide an insider’s view into the process, underlining the incredible work that goes into every single oyster.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Are Some Challenges or Difficulties That Arise in the Oyster Farming Process?

In oyster farming, labour intensity presents a significant challenge. It’s a hands-on operation requiring constant vigilance and physical work. Market fluctuations add an extra layer of difficulty. Oyster demand and prices can vary wildly, impacting profitability.

It’s a delicate balancing act, managing the labour-intensive process while navigating an unpredictable market. Despite these challenges, it’s the passion for the art that keeps oyster farmers committed to their craft.

How Does the Weather or Climate Affect the Growth and Quality of the Oysters?

Climate significantly impacts oyster growth and quality. Extreme weather events can disrupt their habitats, but oysters show remarkable climate resilience.

Regular weather forecasting helps farmers anticipate changes and protect their crops. Cold winters promote shell strength, while warmer waters accelerate growth. However, too much warmth can encourage harmful algal blooms.

What Measures Are Taken to Prevent Diseases or Pests in Oyster Farming?

In oyster farming, significant measures are taken to prevent diseases or pests. They practice ‘oyster vaccination’ to boost disease resistance, ensuring the oysters stay healthy.

Regular monitoring of the oyster beds is crucial for early detection of any issues. Furthermore, maintaining clean water conditions and using sustainable farming practices help minimize disease risk.

It’s all about creating a safe and clean environment for the oysters to thrive.

How Does Oyster Farming Impact Other Marine Life in the Surrounding Ecosystem?

Oyster farming’s impact on marine life is largely positive. It helps maintain ecosystem balance by filtering nutrients, pollutants, and sediments from the water. This creates clearer waters, promoting the growth of underwater plants and supporting other marine species.

Additionally, oyster beds provide important habitats and nurseries, giving a biodiversity boost to sea life. So, they’re not just farming oysters, they’re nurturing the entire marine ecosystem.

Are There Specific Educational or Skill Requirements Needed to Become an Oyster Farmer?

Becoming an oyster farmer doesn’t require specific educational qualifications. However, understanding entrepreneurial aspects and market trends is crucial. It’s hands-on work, so practical skills are essential. Knowledge of marine biology can be beneficial, but it’s not mandatory.

A successful oyster farmer is typically patient, detail-oriented, and physically fit. They’re also adaptable, as changing weather conditions can impact the job. It’s a complex yet rewarding profession for those who love the sea and its bounty.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Carlingford’s oyster farming is a fine art, deeply intertwined with the town’s culture and economy. Their meticulous cultivation techniques, sustainable practices, and passionate commitment to quality haven’t only established them as a global culinary delight, but also stewards of the environment.

Whether you’re indulging in the unique taste of Carlingford’s oysters or engaging with the dedicated farmers, you’re truly immersing in a rich, sustainable legacy.

Video Transcript

Speaker 2 (00:06)
Growing Oysters is the only job I’ve ever done. My dad started the business when I was about five or six, and I used to work with him. I used to go out in the boat with him, probably didn’t do too much work when I was little, and worked through primary school, secondary school. Got away to college for a couple of years, which was great, and then came back, and we’re working full-time ever since. My name is Kean Louet-Fisor from a business called the oyster Company, and we grow oysters. The tide is just starting to move, and you can see the oyster bed is just coming out of the water behind us, and you can see the lovely vista of the Mora Mountains as well. There’s about a dozen of us here working on the oyster farm. Half of us are involved in the growing part of the farm, and the other half are involved in all the packing and washing and the dispatch. We’re very focused on the quality of our oysters. As are, like many, there are some fantastic oysters around the UK and Ireland. Oyster farms get a little bit too attached to the oysters.

Speaker 2 (01:04)
They put far too much work into them because they’re there for three years. It’s very, very satisfying when you see a crop of oysters and you’ve done all the right things at the right time over three years, and they just come a off your farm. It’s nice to get paid, but it’s really almost as rewarding just to see beautiful oysters come off your farm.

Speaker 1 (01:27)
It takes us three years to grow our oysters. When we buy them first, they’re about the size of your little finger nail, and they’re about a 10th of a gramme. After the first year, they’re about 10 grammes on average. After the second year, about 30 grammes. And then the final year, they come to 60 or 70 grammes ready for sale. We have stuff here that we just bought. This is springtime now in the autumn. These seed oysters are literally only here for six months. Most of us the winter where they haven’t grown too much. But you can see already there’s quite a variation in size. We’ve got loads of different sizes there. We’re just running it through the water grader here. There’s four different meshes on there under the water, and it just sieves the oysters into four different grades for us, and it just makes the growth more uniform for the next cycle. Again, we have about 60,000 bags on the farm, and every bag is graded once a year. So it takes them three years to grow, but each year we grade them once. So this first conveyor here is taking out the smallest grade.

Speaker 1 (02:36)
I’ll get a handful of them. So really, they’re just stuff that hasn’t really grown at all. So you get a huge variation in growth on the oysters and some with very little growth, a few dead shells there, and the other stuff will be maybe 10 times the size of that. So that’s the smallest grade. And if you come through here, I’ll show you the next one. Behind you there, you can see the second smallest grade. This is one of the middle-sized grades here. And then… That’s the biggest one there. So you can see the variation that we’re getting fairly quickly. So if we don’t grade the oysters, the quality really drops away. So it’s one of the things you have to do to get better quality oysters. It’s just continuously grading the oysters, keeping the same size roughly in the bags, and they grow more in a form, you get a nice shape. If you have lots of different sizes in the bags, the shape tends to be a bit long and thin and the quality drops away.

Speaker 2 (03:42)
When my dad retired, we used to just sell all our oysters bulk out to big wholesalers in France, and they would buy oysters from Ireland and other places and pack them and sell them on. And there was something in my head that I wanted to sell our own oysters under our own name. And it was quite an uphill struggle at the start because I remember offering people a Carlingford oyster. Nobody heard of a Carlingford oyster. There’d been oysters in Carlingford 100 years ago and longer, but they’d all been fished out. So there was a gap a time where there was no knowledge of a Carlingford oyster. But it was just persistence and trying to look after customers. And eventually people now recognise our oysters when they see them on a menu, which is fantastic.

Speaker 1 (04:30)
This guy over here, he’s very shy, but we’re going to try and get a few words out of him. It’s my dad. He’s 83, and he retired about 20 years ago, and then he got bored. So he took on a couple of hundred bags of oysters. So he’s got a little pet oyster for him. And just keeps him busy, keeps him out of trouble. But he started the farm in the ’70s, so 40 odd years ago. So it’s all his idea. So come on in, we’ll see if we can talk to him. Hey, dad. How’s it going? Fine. Can I get Can I picture you? I’m in a rush. I know you are, but you can work and talk. I’ll help you. So this is my father, Peter, who started the oyster farm. It’s all his idea. And this is his little tractor and his little trailer. Where his tracels are, it’s very deep and you can’t drive with the tractor, so he unhitches the trailer and it floats. As you can see, the surfboards here give it a bit more stability. I’ll do a bit of work, so in order to keep. He’ll hitch off the trailer and float the boat out to where his tracels are.

Speaker 1 (05:40)
He’s very passionate about the way he looks after his oysters. He looks after his oyster better. He looks after his children. Don’t you, dad? They do themselves. They do. Children don’t need any look at them. So there. So you can see he’s got quite a pile of these ones as well.

Speaker 2 (05:57)
Here you go, dad.

Speaker 1 (06:00)
So I see these are seed oysters the same as what we were showing you on our grader today, except Peter’s graded these by hand. And you can see the small ones in the small mesh bag and the bigger ones in the bigger mesh bag. And they’re all going to have to see. And his oysters are much better than ours because he looks after them individually. Next year, next year, dad. No, his oysters are fabulous.

Speaker 5 (06:26)
I’m very lucky, you see. I’m very lucky. My children are better than me. That’s great, isn’t it?

Speaker 1 (06:31)
We’ll give you the idea to start the… You want to start from me.

Speaker 5 (06:36)
Okay. Madness. Madness. Totally madness.

Speaker 1 (06:40)
I’m here, guy.

Speaker 5 (06:42)
A madness, come to me.

Speaker 1 (06:45)
Do you want the real story? The real story. The real story. My dad’s Dutch. He was born in Indonesia because my grandparents were teachers out there and he was out there in the middle of World War II. They came back to Holland and he always interested in sailing. You should be saying all this. He’ll tell lies anyway. He’s always interested in the sea and sailing. He moved to Ireland and was doing a bit of fishing and things. It was a radio programme on BBC Radio 4. Somebody was talking about growing seed oysters and growing oysters. He says, That sounds interesting. I’ll try that. Basically, from that, it just grew and grew and grew. When I started The marketing of oysters, the Irish market, we wouldn’t have been able to sell our oysters in the Irish.

Speaker 2 (07:36)
It’s just too small of a population. And although in the last 10 or 15 years, you can really see an interest in oysters, and the amount of oysters we sell in Ireland has increased, but in the ’80s and ’90s, that just wasn’t going to work. Our nearest market was the UK, and we’re only 15 minutes from the border. And we literally used to pack the oysters, 100 in a box, and take them up. And we used to go to the post office in Uri, and they used to go on the Red Royal mail vans and be in London the next day. It was fantastic. So it’s our biggest market. The Irish market is building up nicely, and we also have some customers in Asia, which is fantastic because I remember the first time somebody from Asia rang us up looking for oysters, and I thought it was a joke. I nearly dismissed them on the phone. And just luckily, I kept listening. And it’s a fantastic experience. They’re really into their high-quality seafood, and it’s upped our game because we have to meet their demands. We’ve learned a lot from working with those customers.

Speaker 1 (08:40)
These are just the growing bags. So you can see The bag is probably 80% empty. But when we take them back at the end of the year, there’ll be more or less 10 kilos of oysters in this bag, and it’ll be completely full. They’re just the bags for ongrowing the oysters. These ones here, we’ve got to float on bags. One of the things we do on the farm is we turn the bags over continuously, and it keeps the shape uniform, and it keeps the seaweed clean off the bags as well. But it’s very labour-intensive. So what we’ve done is we’ve put a float in the bag, and what happens is the bag is hanging from the frame like this, and as the tide comes in and out, it will rotate the bag like that, and it runs the oysters around a bit, and you get a really good quality oyster coming out of that system. So over here This is where we pack all our oysters before we send them out to the customers. After the grading, we put them in the purification tanks, and they’re in there for two days, and then we list them back out.

Speaker 1 (09:40)
There’s loads of different colour boxes, as you can see. It’s basically all the different sizes. We have about 14 different grades of oysters. We have lots of different colours boxes for the different grades. These ones here are our smallest size. They’re about 60 grammes, about 14 pieces per kilo. And then this is one of our biggest sizes here. They’re about 200 grammes in size. So nearly three times the size. Different customers in different places looking for different oysters. And so we do great at different sizes for the different customers. The small ones are really nice, actually. One of my favourite size to eat. I’m not a huge fan of the big ones, but some people love the big ones. So customer’s always right. So again, all different colours are all different sizes of oysters, small, medium, and large. Larissa, Marela, Damian, and Brian are packing all your oysters. So if you ever get a carnival oyster, they’ve been put in a box by these guys here. Actually, when we’re talking about packing, the shelf life on an oyster is about 10 to 12 days. And the most important thing is for the oyster to be deep shell down.

Speaker 1 (10:46)
So if you look at the guy’s pack and they’re not just throwing them into the box. Every single oyster is packed with a deep shell underneath. That keeps the liquid inside the oyster. And like this, they keep for about 10 days. If they’re this way around, after two or three days, they dry out and then they start to and die. So it’s really important to have them this way around.

Speaker 2 (11:07)
What keeps me interested in the oyster farm is we have customers looking for really good quality oysters, and it’s quite a challenge to grow them. And even after 40 years, it still doesn’t work perfectly. If we get really good oysters one year and we do exactly the same thing the following year because of different weather conditions or different rainfall, you We just won’t get the same results. So it keeps us on our toes. We’re still learning. We’ve got really good oysters one year. And then I remember a dozen of us sitting in the canteen having a meeting going, What is going on this year? We did just what we did last year, and just the quality is not in it. Maybe we’re a bit stupid. We should have figured it out by now, but we haven’t. In a way, that’s a good thing because it’d be awful boring if we just did the same thing every… Although the job is very monotonous and it’s very repetitive, we do the same thing day in, day out. But it’s nice because you get out in the shore for three or four hours every day, and then you’re in the factory grading for three or four hours every day, or I’ll be in the office for three or four hours.

Speaker 2 (12:05)
I wouldn’t like to be in the office all day either. It just wrecks me. Anyway, after three hours, I’m completely unproductive, so I may as well be out on the beach. There’s days like this when it’s sunny and it’s fabulous to be out there. But even when you go out in a rough day and could be out in the dark in the winter at four or five o’clock in the evening, you come back in, you get home, the fire is lit, you have a nice big feed in front of you, and you just melt into the chair. It’s fantastic.

Speaker 3 (12:31)
This area here in front of us, this is our storage area. So these bags and trassels, they’re exposed by the tide on every single day. We get a week of spring tides and then a week of neat tides. And the tidal range on a spring tide is about five metres in Carlingford. So if you go into the village, have a look at the pier at low tide, it’s about five metres high. On a neat tide, the tidal range is only about two metres. So it doesn’t go out as far, it doesn’t come in as far. So at low tide, these cages in front of us, the water will be maybe a fun water at these cages, not as far out in the beach as we can get. So we bring oeufs in from the farm on the spring tides and bring extra and leave them there so that we can keep working during the neat tides. And also what we do is the three-year-old oeys that are ready for sale, we’ll bring them up to this area and leave here for about six weeks to condition them. And what that does is they’re out of the water for about twelve hours a day, as opposed to on the farm, they’re only out of the water for maybe an hour a day, and it gets them used to being out of the water.

Speaker 3 (13:43)
It toughens up the shell, makes the shell more waterproof and the duct or muscle is stronger. And that’s what gives them the shell play. If we were to take them straight from the farm, pop them in the tanks, after two or three days, they’ll start opening for the customers. But if we leave them here for about six weeks, They’re hardening up and we get 10 or 12 day shell type, no problem at all. So one of the main Our job in the Easter Farm is turning the bags over and we’ve seen a wee while. One side of the bag is really green with seaweed. And there’s three or four guys and their job is just coming in for three hours in the tide, turning bags.

Speaker 1 (14:28)
And it’s quite hard to get guys do that job.

Speaker 3 (14:30)
And it’s really important. So what we’ve done, you’ll see them in Seath and the bags up here, is there’s a float attached to the bag. And as the tide rises and falls, it gets turned twice a day. And we can only turn it by hand maybe once a month. So that’s 60 times more higher frequency. And the oises you get out of it are fabulous. So we’re really happy with that. But there’s a bit of teeth and problems because there’s so many moving parts. There’s a lot of wear and tear on the bags. Normal bag in the oasis farm, we can get 30 years out of 10 at least, often 20. These bags here are not lasting as long as that, so we want to reduce that. There’s Andre and Alan turning the bag. So you can see it’s quite strenuous work. And see the shake the bags to the side? That breaks off the new shell and keeps the oysters in good shape. This line of bags that we’re picking up here with Josh and Toli, it’s seed that we bought last autumn. We put in about a kilo and a half in the bag, and it’s three kilos now.

Speaker 3 (15:42)
We’re going to bring it up to the factory and grade it and try and get it into nine mil bags. It’s in a six mil bag now. We’ll grade it and put it back in the nine mil bag, it’s about a kilo and a half. And then we’ll have to leave it until January of next year or February next year because we can’t really touch the seed from June onwards. So we just put enough in the bag that’ll do until the following winter. And that line, there’s about 200,000 oysters in that line. And the line behind is empty. That’s the stuff we were grading today. We have two more lines. There’s a million oysters between these four lines.

Speaker 1 (16:20)
Three quarters of the farm is empty. There’s nothing growing here. If we were to fill this completely with bags, the growth would just slow down and nearly stop because there’s too much, too many oysters per square metre. So we have about 25% of the area full of terrassels, and we find that’s a good balance between the amount of food in the water and the density of oysters, and we get a nice growth rate and a nice plump fat oyster. Anybody who’s seen rivers and canals around the place, you’ll see in the summertime, it’ll go green with algae because the water’s too rich. There’s too much nutrient in the water, and it causes a lot of algae grow, and the rivers or lakes will turn green. I think it decomposes then, and it takes all the oxygen out of the water, and you get fish kills and things like that. So you can see now as populations increasing. The same thing’s actually happening in the sea. For years, people thought the sea was immune to human activity because it was so vast, but that’s not really the case. One thing that oysters do is they consume all the algae that grows in the water.

Speaker 1 (17:35)
So if you look at the water in Ireland, it’s a lovely green shade. That’s all the algae in it. If you try and grow oysters in the Caribbean, this is not going to work because the water is see-through and there’s no food in the water. We don’t have that problem here. An oyster farm, if there’s a lot of nutrient in the water, they will restore the balance. And there are some places where they have oyster farms, and they’re not even for consumption. They’re just to clean up the environment. There’s a thing in New York called the Billion Oyster Project, and basically they’re putting a billion oysters into the sea to try and balance the ecosystem. There’s places around some of the cities in Japan, I think, where they grow oysters, and it’s too close to the city, so you can’t eat the oysters, but it’s basically restoring the balance of the ecosystem. These two lines here, this is a batch of seed that we bought about three weeks ago. We buy most of our seed in the autumn, and depending on how the performance is, we might get a little bit more in the spring.

Speaker 1 (18:51)
We got one batch in the autumn, wasn’t so good, so we decided we’d buy another batch. I think there was a million and a half oysters in these two lines, and we’ve split three quarters of them already this week. And there and see all the lines between us and the end of the farm, that’s all those bags split down to a low density because it’s probably a 10,000 oysters in that bag, and we split them down to a bit 700. So I’ll just put my hand in here and grab a handful of them. See what I can see. So that’s the oysters there. We put a few winkles in the nice because the winkles eat the seaweed and see the mesh is spotless clean. They just graze on any seaweed before it can grow. So everything looks nice. Starting to grow a wee bit. It’s nice and uniform. One or two dead oysters in it. You always get a couple of dead oysters in the seed because It’s been out of the water for two or three days and it was graded before they send it here. So you always get a couple that don’t survive.

Speaker 1 (19:53)
So that’s just a dead oyster there. There’s only one or two of them, so that’s no problem. And the ones that are surviving are all growing nice and uniformly. This one here is retaken off. You can see that finger nail of shell on the outside? That’s all new growth on the oyster. And earlier on, we saw Alan and Andre turning the bags. And what they’re doing is when they turn, they give the bag a shake and that breaks off that shell because the oyster grows long and it grows deep. And if you turn the bag and shake the shell, break the shell off, you’re breaking that length and it encourages the oyster to go deeper. So it’ll grow back deep and shake take the bag again, break off the length so you get a nice deep teardrop-shaped oyster.

Speaker 2 (20:34)
So that’s what’s going on at the farm.

Speaker 1 (20:43)
These are floating bags that we put out a year ago.

Speaker 3 (20:48)
They’re ready for sale.

Speaker 1 (20:50)
But again, they’ve been in the water nearly 2 or 23 hours a day. So we’ll bring them higher up to the beach where they’re going to be out of the water for 12 hours a day. Leave them there for a month or six weeks. And then we’ll grade them and put them in the tanks for sale. And this is the last of last year’s batch. And then we’ll be starting stuff that we’re going to put out maybe February or March of this year. The Oasis Farm is a bit like painting one of those huge big bridges. You start one end, paint the whole lot of it, go back to the beginning, start all over again. It’s tough when there’s only three or four of you is in the tide. If there’s five or six of you, it gets a lot easier. So it’s just a matter of having enough people on the farm to do the work. Hopefully after your video was out, loads of people will go, That’s a fantastic way to earn a living. I never realised that, and they’ll come and work for us, and it’ll be nice and easy here. What I want to do now is just show you how to shuck an oyster, which is how to open an oyster.

Speaker 1 (22:01)
A lot of people are very nervous about opening oysters. There’s a couple of wee knacks to make it really easy. It’s probably the biggest barrier between getting our oysters to customers, people going, I can’t open these at home. This is really good information for you. Just when you get your oysters, ideally, they should be all packed with the deep shell underneath. The deep shell is like a little bath, keeps all the liquid inside, and they’ll keep like this for about two weeks from packing date. If you leave them like this, the water leaks out slowly, and after a day or two, they’ll dry out and open up. And even if they don’t die, when you open them, they’re all dry inside and it’s not very advertising. So if they’re not in a box like this, pre-packed for you, and you bring them home, put them in a pasta bowl or something like that in the fridge. They keep the same temperature as dairy reels. Two or three degrees is perfect. Deep shell down. They will actually keep for about a month or longer, but there’s no real need for that. You should 10 days, no problem with your oysters.

Speaker 1 (23:02)
Okay, so open the oyster. There’s a deep shell and a flat shell. On the deep shell, there’s a nose. Just underneath that, there’s a little space where you can put the oyster knife. Just in here. Don’t hold it in your left hand. Put it down on your breadboard so that if the knife does slip, you’re not going to do any damage. You just twist the knife over and back like a screwdriver until it catches. It goes in about an inch or half an inch or so. So it’s like a lollypop like this. All right. At that stage, you can pick up the oyster. If you just give that twist.

Speaker 2 (23:39)
There you hear a wee pop and the oyster opens up.

Speaker 1 (23:43)
Sometimes there can be a bit of sand or grit there. So just clean the knife first. On one side of the knife’s got a sharp edge on it. The oyster attach the shell about halfway down the side here. So insert the knife there and keep the knife nice and high. Twist it and wiggle it down. So just where my thumb is there, you’re just rubbing the knife against the top shell. Ideally, when you open an oyster, it should look as if the top shell has just… Just as if the top shell has just magically disappeared. You don’t want to interfere or mess up the meat too much. So there’s a little bit of new shell. Just there. Okay. There as well. So there’s the oyster. And we just cut it away from the top shell. See the dark mark there? It’s full of liquid as well. So that’s a good sign when you get your oysters that have been stored correctly. And then you need to separate from the bottom shell in the same place as well. I’ll just make sure it’s loose. And that’s it. That’s ready to go. You can see there’s plenty of sea water, and it’s called oyster liquor because the oyster has been in that water for, could be a couple of days.

Speaker 1 (24:56)
So the sea water is a special part of eating the oysters. But if you take the whole lot together, it can be overpower to taste the oyster. So what I would do, would recommend people is, if you sip the water first, especially if you haven’t eaten an oyster before, sip the water first and see how that is. And if you think that’s grand, then go ahead and eat your first oyster. And if you don’t like that, then maybe stop. But at least if you get that over with you, it’s start. The next thing is, don’t swallow the oyster, chew the oyster, because there’s so many different flavours in the oyster. And You won’t get them if you just swallow it back. I think people just swallow oysters years ago because they were so nervous, all the experience. But chew the oyster and there’s loads of different flavours that will be unique to an oyster from Carlingford or from Donegal or anywhere else that the oysters come from, and you’ll appreciate all those different flavours that you chew your oyster. I’m going to do that now. If you want different dressings for your oysters, if you had a range of different oysters from different bays, I would recommend just try at least one with nothing on it so you can taste the different flavours.

Speaker 1 (26:03)
If you put a dressing on them, you won’t taste the subtle nuances in the oyster. But a squeeze of lemon is lovely on oysters. Something simple like that. Drop it to basco. Some people think basco is too strong, but actually, whatever parts of your tongue taste Tabasco, it’s different from the oyster. You can taste the oyster straight through the basco, and it’s a lovely combination. Another recipe that’s nice is if you can make a mignonette, shallots, and vinegar, and sugar. And that’s really nice with oysters. Thank you very much for taking the time to watch our video today. And if you’re ever in the vicinity of Carlinford, please come and visit us in the factory. We’re building a new visitor’s experience where we can shuck a few oysters for you, pair them with a nice wine. If the tide’s out, we can bring you on a tour of the oyster farm, and you can see in person how the oysters are growing, if you see our oysters on the menu, please try them. At least you’ll know a bit more about the oysters that you’re eating. Hope to see you very soon. Thank you very much.

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