Market Name: Oyster
Scientific Name: Crassostrea gigas
Common Name: Pacific oyster, Japanese oyster
Flavor: Mild/Moderate
Texture: Delicate/Medium

Unlike the native Eastern oyster, the Pacific oyster is a Japanese transplant, brought to this country after the turn of the century to revitalize the West Coast oyster industry after its native Olympia species (Ostrea lurida) crashed. Hearty and easy to propagate, the Pacific oyster is now the most widely cultured oyster in the world. It is farmed from California to Alaska and in Australia, Europe and Asia. Washington state leads North American pro duction, followed by British Columbia, California, Oregon and Alaska. In the wild, Pacific oysters are found from Alaska to California and in temperate waters around the world. They are nearly always, however, a farm-raised product, grown in suspended systems in bags, racks, lanterns or on ropes. They are named for their region of growth, such as Westcott Bays, Quilcenes, Willapa Bays and so forth. The deep-cupped, smaller Kumamoto is the Pacific oyster held in highest repute by Northwest slurpers. Northwest oyster farmers also produce “all-season,” sterile Pacific oysters called triploids. Because they don’t spawn, they’re in season year-round.

Product Profile:
Pacific Northwest oysters are mild and sweet, with a briny flavor and crisp texture. Those from California have a slightly stronger taste. As with all oyster species, flavor depends on the waters in which it is grown. The deeply cupped, elongated shell is curly, thick and silvery gray to gold. Meat is creamy white, sometimes with a dark fringe around the mantle. Shell and meat colors vary by region and season. Oyster meats should be plump and juicy. Dramatic meat discoloration suggests poor quality, but slight shades of pink, green or black may reflect diet and regional conditions. How do you know if an oyster’s alive? Just tap on the shell to see if it closes. Or sniff: A dead oyster smells like sulfur.

You Should Know:
While raw oysters pose a danger to a small segment of the population, Pacific oysters grown in cold waters of the United States or Canada are not subject to Vibrio.

Cooking Tips:
Aficionados enjoy Pacific oysters on the halfshell. For a special dipping sauce, mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, 4 teaspoons of apple cider (or 2 of white vinegar), 2 teaspoons of Japanese hot red pepper, 1 teaspoon of toasted white sesame seeds, 2 teaspoons of sugar and 1 finely chopped green onion. Try whole oysters on the grill; when the shell opens, they’re done. With any method, cook just till the meat plumps or the mantle curls.

Cooking Methods: Bake,Fry,Grill,Saute',Smoke,Steam

Substitutions: Eastern oysters, European oysters

Primary Product Forms:
Fresh: LIVE: Singles or clusters (“clumps”) Halfshell, Shucked meats
Frozen: Whole Halfshell Shucked meats
Value-Added: Canned meats, soups and stews Smoked meats Breaded (frozen) Entrées (frozen)

Global Supply: