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French Terms


Oysters of Normandy
John McCabe

The oyster growers of Normandy produce about 25% of all the oysters in France (approx. 35,000 metric tons annually). The area features over 2,713 acres (1,098 hectares) of oyster cultivation parks. Surprisingly, this most significant oyster region is largely unknown as such - even in France. A survey revealed that half of the French don't even know that Normandy produces oysters. This is really good news for oyster lovers "in the know", as fabulous oysters, both Pacific and European oysters of any size, can be purchased from local merchants (or sometimes right from the growers) at great prices. What makes this region even more attractive, besides its enormous historical and cultural wealth, is that an oyster lover can sample oysters from at least four distinct "oyster terroirs" in close proximity. Each "terroir" (growing area) imparts a special taste nuance to its oysters. So, even though the weather tends to be a tad rough and cool in this region for most of the year, an oyster lover's heart will always be fulfilled with great joy.

In terms of oysters, this French coastal region borders on Belgium in the East, stretches westerly across the Cotentin Peninsula, and then South, almost all the way down to the famous Cloister Mont-Saint-Michelle in northern Brittany.

"La Côte de Nacre" runs from Courseulles s.-Mer to Meuvaines Asnelles. About 800 metric tons of oysters are produced in this area.

Further West we find the Bay of Veys ("Baie des Veys") in the area of Isigny s. Mer and Grandcamp-Maisy. Four rivers feed this bay, which enhances the marine nutrient supply for the oysters grown here. This growing area produces about 7,000 metric tons of exceptional oysters annually. The exceptional "Huître spéciale d'Isygny" ("Special Oyster of Isygny") is highly respected among many oyster lovers.

Now we have also reached the easterly side of the Contentin Peninsula. Here, an important cultivation area stretches from Sainte-Marie-Du-Mont to Saint-Vaast-La-Hougue. Approximately 11,000 metric tons of oysters are annually produced here.

Over on the westerly side of the Contentin Peninsula, the area from about Portbail, and heading South across Pirou, Blanville sur Mer, Agon-Coutainville, clear down to Granville, constitutes a huge oyster growing area. Approximately 17,000 metric tons of oysters are grown here annually. Oysters from this area are often referred to as "Huîtres de Pleine mer", because they have that crisp and cool "Atlantic flavor" so many oyster lovers simply love (including me). If you really want to kiss the ocean right on the lips, then choose a Huître de Pleine mer from Normandy.

Although great oysters can be found along the entire Normandy stretch, most oyster lovers head straight for the Contentin Peninsula, as oyster cultivation is particularly concentrated in this area.

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