The Passion
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Green Oysters Anyone?
John McCabe

What might sound to some of us like something right out of "Green Eggs and Ham" by Dr. Seuss, is actually a prized specialty: green oysters from Marennes-Oléron! They are known as "Les Vertes" ("the green ones"). Hence, the oysters offered in Marennes-Oléron can be labeled either "blanche" (or not at all in terms of a color), which usually describes any oyster with the typical light "brownish or grayish" meat color tone, or be labeled "verte", which tells the oyster lover that the meat will definitely reveal plenty of green coloring.

If oysters are given the opportunity to feast on a particular micro-algae species called the "Navicule bleue" ("Blue Navicula"), scientifically referred to as "Navicula ostrea" or "Haslea ostrearia", a good portion of their meats will gain an emerald green color. Marennes-Oléron is most famous for its "green oysters". Long ago, as the story goes, the sun king Louis XIV, ordered a big batch of oysters from Marennes-Oléron. His new bride at the time, Madame de Maintenon, upon visiting the royal kitchen, discovered that the flesh of the oysters was partially green. Horrified, and certain that they were an obvious attempt to poison the king, she ordered all the oysters to be discarded at once. She then immediately informed the king of the thwarted attempt on his life. The king, likely cringing at the thought of the tragic loss of these delicious oysters, put her at ease, explaining that these had been his beloved green oysters from Marennes-Oléron.

Although this special micro-algae species grows naturally in the claires, private marine laboratories also produce this type of algae and sell lots of it to French oyster cultivators.

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