On Wednesday morning we set off on a mini trip to Cancale and Granville for a couple of days of shellfish and sea air.
First stop – Oyster Farm.
Oysters are cultivated in six locations in France; Normandie, Bretagne, Ile de Ré, Ile d'Oléron and le bassin de l'Arcachon on the Atlantic Coast and le bassin de Thau in Languedoc Roussillon on the Mediterranean Coast.
La Ferme Marine in Cancale is open to the
public for daily tours of their oyster farm.
The small fee also includes a tasting, informative video and explanation plus access to their stunning collection of shells from around the world.
My brief lesson in 'Ostréiculture' taught me that there are two main genres of oyster – 'plate' et 'creuse' (flat and not flat) with many species under each umbrella term.
Creuse oysters are the most popular as their flavours are lighter and their cost is cheaper. They account for 90% of oyster production in France with just 10% for the plate.
The plate are a little more rare. The sought after 'Belon' variety or 'ostrea edulis' are cultivated in Brittany. Their flavour is intense and borderline metallic which is not to everyone's taste. They are truly an oyster lovers oyster. The creuse are the more easy going of the two with fresher and brighter flavours.
We were able to watch all the workers processing oysters, sorting, and training them. Yes, training. To make sure oysters do not leak and therefore die once packed, they are trained to stay closed in a pool as shown below.
It was interesting to learn that if an oyster has a hole in its shell, it is not discarded. It is simply left for longer where it's shell regenerates just like our skin.
The oysters are then packed and shipped around the world. To test for quality whilst packing, they are tapped one against another. The packers listen to this tap and you can hear if they are hollow and need to be removed.
After the tour there was only one way to carry on. We bought plates of oysters and ate them by the sea with a bottle of champagne.
Then we did it all over again at dinner.
A little tip – restaurants are incredibly expensive in Cancale so the best option is to buy them by the piece or plate from the mini market of oyster producers. You can find the stalls at the tip, right by the oyster beds themselves. It is also much more fun because you get to throw your shells onto the beach once empty. I haven't tried it in a restaurant but i'm pretty sure it would be frowned upon. Maybe next time.
La Ferme Marine is an easy 15 minute drive from St Malo and an hour drive from Mont St Michel. They also do one tour in English per day at 2pm.