The Charente-Maritime oyster, the big star of Christmas Eve!

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Moments of conviviality, the end of year celebrations are a wonderful opportunity to reunite family and loved ones to share a festive meal with joy and good humor. Foie gras , smoked salmon , turkey with chestnuts , Yule log , there are rituals that you cannot escape! Indispensable, oysters embody the magic of this holiday season with iodized and delicate notes that sublimate our New Years . In Charente-Maritime , the first oyster production basin in France , it's the rush to supply the four corners of the country in time! Visit the oyster beds on the Charente coast.

Oyster ParksOyster Parks
Charente-Maritime oyster beds

Charente-Maritime, the first oyster production area in France

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Sorted by size, oysters are shipped to the four corners of France


At the beginning of December, the marathon begins for professionals of the sea in Charente-Maritime and in particular for oyster farmers. With 44,000 tonnes of oysters sold per year, the department is the leading producer of oysters in France, representing a third of national shipments . Between the renowned oyster parks of Marennes-Oléron , Ile d'Oléron , Île de Ré , Fouras , La Tremblade , nearly 1,200 producers and their teams are busy getting tons of oysters to on our plates. This period represents a crucial moment for them because they realize between 50% and 70% of their annual turnover in a month. A real challenge!

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks Charente Maritime Oyster Parks


And for good reason ... The oysters of Charente-Maritime are very popular dishes and sought after by gourmets! This tasty shell is one of the rare products from 100% natural farming . During three years of growth at sea and during refining, they develop the taste characteristics which make the reputation of Charente-Maritime.


Oyster farming, a profession in harmony with nature


Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

A tide with Didier to discover oyster farming


To learn more about the profession of oyster farmer , I find Didier Fournier on his oyster beds in Martray, in the center of the Ile de Ré , to accompany him on a high tide day shortly before Christmas. Nothing like it to understand this ancestral profession and understand the challenges of protecting this exceptional natural environment, its workplace.

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks Charente Maritime Oyster Parks
Charente Maritime Oyster Parks Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Didier picks up the oysters ready to be conditioned while I advance the tractor between the tables. A real teamwork!


For the owner of the Réostréa cabin , oyster farming is a real lifestyle choice, a job like no other in an idyllic landscape in the heart of nature. In order to pamper his precious shells on a daily basis, Didier lives to the rhythm of the tides and in perfect symbiosis with the ocean. By tractor, we head to its concessions shortly before low tide to access the breeding tables. Depending on the tide and the season, he adapts his work constantly. Its varied tasks require a great versatility , between the installation of spat collectors , the inversion or the splitting of oyster pockets, through the cleaning of the parks or the harvest of oysters ready to be refined, sorted or sold. No two days are alike at sea. Today, the main task consists in harvesting ripe oysters in this area of tidal swing.


Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

I help Didier to detach the oyster pockets


Three years of culture and passion to arrive on our plates!

Swallowed in seconds, hard to imagine that it takes an oyster three long years to reach market size. In Charente-Maritime , the breeding is practiced in "raised", on metal supports, the "tables", installed on the foreshore where the oysters are placed in plastic mesh pockets.

Each summer, between mid-July and the end of August, the oyster is in milk . The warming of the water then makes the oyster "milk" by ejecting its gametes, and thus making fertilization possible between the male and female gametes. With the currents, microscopic larvae emerge and settle on a support. To naturally collect these spat, oyster farmers place collectors in the form of plastic tubes or cups. After 6 months, tiny oyster shells are visible on the collectors. They will continue to grow there for a year before the unhooking stage . The collectors are collected, the oysters detached, separated, graded and put back in the pocket. They then return to the sea to feed on plankton and continue to gain weight .

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Oyster tables

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Spat collectors

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Oysters before dehulling


During this decisive stage of growth, the oyster bags are regularly handled to eliminate algae and other molluscs. During high tides , they are maintained and shaken to strengthen the shells, by those we here call "peasants of the sea". Sorted and recalibrated after 24 months , they end up growing at sea in pockets adapted to their size. After 36 months , they finally reach maturity , ready to be consumed.


Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Oyster farmer and oyster huts on the island of Oleron

Charente Maritime Oyster Parks

Garrett from Cabane Océane to the Fleet teaches me to open oysters safely

Some Charente-Maritime oysters will be tasted as is, barely out of the marine environment. Others will be refined in "clear" in the marshes to develop a subtle taste and a balanced flavor . Some amateurs will prefer the “Fine” oyster, not very fleshy and light on the palate. Others will revel in the “Special”, a fleshy oyster with a larger and rounder flesh rate, less iodized in the mouth. Whether raw, cooked, seasoned with shallot sauce or a drizzle of lemon juice , the oyster exhales all its special seafood flavors. To accompany him? A good rye bread , salted butter and a small glass of white wine .


Ah, if the sea had a flavor, it would be good! Bon appetite and happy holidays to all!


Charente Maritime Oyster Parks


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Article written by Lesley Williamson for the Charente Maritime Guide



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