May 6, 2014

The first stop was Thomas Galvin’s Moyasta Oyster Farm in Poulnasherry Bay, an estuary at the mouth of the River Shannon just halfway between Kilkee and Kilrush. The area around the bay is relatively flat, but gets a healthy upwelling of the Atlantic ocean twice a day. Thomas is in a unique position. He just took over the oyster business from his pop and is revving up to introduce Moyasta’s to the Asian market. In recent years, cosmopolitan metropolises such as Hong Kong and Shanghai can’t seem to get enough of oysters. The changing palate has spurred newfound interest for importing oysters from Ireland directly. Almost all of Ireland’s oyster farmers knows this and some have already capitalized on the demand.

When we walked into the Moyasta warehouse, the first thing I noticed was just how clean everything was. The whole facility appeared to be spotless. Everything had its place, well maybe except for a heap of oysters scattered across the conveyer belt. Upon further examination of the oysters, it was striking to see such manicured shells. The colors ranged from light brown to deep purple. Practically no barnacles were stuck to the gorgeous ombre exteriors. I figured that they must do a lot of cleaning, but as it turns out, the Galvins hardly touch them. Their growing area seemed to be blessed with few hitchhiking critters. If they had oyster shell beauty contests in Ireland, I’d imagine that the Moyasta Oyster would be a strong contender.

Moyasta Premium oysters take about 3 years to reach market size. They are the Gigas species, which is traditionally known to us (Americans) as the West Coast variety grown in the Pacific. Over here, they do just fine in the Atlantic. Gigas oysters are the most cultivated species in the world and they make up nearly all of the production in Ireland. Their robust genetics make them easy to grow and less susceptible to disease. To keep up with them, and to help them form their beautiful deep cupped shape, Thomas has to turn and shake the oyster bags at least once a month. They call it “training,” but I call it tough love. The movement produces a nicely pruned, sturdy oyster shell that is perfect to endure even the longest transcontinental flights.

It didn’t take long for us to open a few up to try. I couldn’t wait to taste them. These Moyastas were just 3 hours out of the water. Taking my first slurp, the instant rush of sea water hit my palate. The oyster itself was incredibly meaty and buttery, skirted with a crunchy, black mantle. A fresh and clean grassy, cucumber flavor became very apparent upon a couple of chews. The initial brininess was later neutralized and balanced by a mellow sweet finish. I couldn’t get enough of them… we chatted and opened a dozen or so before moving on.

Hopefully with the help of BIM, my friends in Hong Kong will get a chance to try these out next year!

Author: admin