Knysna has long been synonymous with oysters and they remain the delicacy of the town. Oysters are the choice for gourmands, romantics and for those who appreciate the finer things in life. Knysna has a history of oyster farming dating back to 1946 with the first experiments cultivating oysters. Held in high esteem by many as an aphrodisiac, the oyster is a must-eat-treat when visiting.
Celebrated by the town at a festival each July for the last 26 years, the oyster brings Knysna lots of tourism prospects. Another popular option being the oyster tour, which includes visiting the oyster beds, shucking and tasting both wild and cultivated oysters. Indulging in oysters, should always be accompanied by the obligatory sparkling wine or champagne and Knysna is the perfect place for this lavishness.
The choice of the ancients, and a tasty choice indeed, the wild oysters are gown only on the coast between Cape Agulhas and the Transkei. They are fleshy, flashy and easily distinguished by their unevenly shaped shells.
Commercial collectors are licensed and strictly controlled – but you, as an individual, may collect up to 25 a day (if you have a valid fishing permit).
The choice of most commercial growers around the world. The Pacific or cultivated oyster originated in the Sea of Japan. They are just as fleshy and flashy as wild oysters, but you can identify them by their even shape and the frilly, fan-like protrusions on the pretty, greenish shells.
Oysters are classed as bivalves – each half of the oyster shell is known as a valve. They live on rocks along the seashore, where many specimens grow together in tightly packed colonies. Their shells open and they feed by filtering water through their gills when the tide is high, and when the tide ebbs again, they close to trap enough moisture to prevent dehydration.
The oysters indigenous to the Garden Route coast that you are most likely to encounter include:
• The common rock oyster, which is edible and usually eaten raw, found from the Transkei to False Bay.
• The hooded or Natal rock oyster which wide-spread in the Indian Ocean.
• The red oyster, which is edible, but is usually eaten cooked. It’s found from Algoa Bay to False Bay.
• The weed oyster, also found between Algoa Bay and False Bay.
• The pearl oyster, which actually does produce true pearls, and is also found between Algoa Bay and False Bay.
Wild oysters are presently harvested in the inter-tidal zone, in a somewhat indiscriminate method that permits the use of crowbars – which harms all the sea life surrounding each oyster. Also, all license holders in any given area have equal access to the resource, which often leads to over exploitation.
Article written by 34 South, Knysna