Originally from Japan, and known there as the Miyage Oyster, the Pacific Oyster is now grown commercially worldwide and considered to be a threat to other species in some places. They were introduced to New Zealand in the last 75 years and tend to out-compete the native Sydney Rock Oyster for resources and space. They feed on phytoplankton (tiny living sea-vegetables) and broken down kelp particles, and are preyed on by crabs, starfish, large sea snails and presumably, oystercatchers. They live for up to 30 years but the farmed ones will be under a couple of years old.
On the way back from surfing up north we dropped in at Matakana Oysters for a big old bag of delicious morsels. They’re half price if you shuck em yourself. I could definitely have paid more attention. My mind was focussed on leaving the driveway back onto the main road heavy with weekend traffic, without ourselves being shucked by a fast european car. Luckily my fearless assistant had the presence of mind to pay attention to the demo, and led proceedings when we got them home. Basically, hold the oyster flat side up, with the hinge side toward you. Take your knife about a third of the way up one side, wiggle it in, twist the blade …and presto!
Apparently this is actually the worst time of year for pacific oysters. They go through a cycle of beefing up, then producing sperm and eggs, then releasing them. Fertilization occurs in the open water then the larvae swim around for a couple of weeks before clinging on somewhere. The release happens toward the end of the year, then in January through to March the oysters are in the growing and recovery phase and the meat is thin and less appealing. I thought these ones were super delicious, and since I’m not yet an oyster expert, I’ll have to come back to this later in the year and make a comparison. I had a couple with a squeeze of fresh lemon, but preferred them unadulterated, scooped fresh ’n’ raw out of the shell.