Ebre Delta oysters are grown exclusively in the Fangar and Alfacs bays of Catalonia’s southern wetland area. Yet the oyster – locally known as ostra arrissada – originated in the Pacific, and in fact in English is known as the Pacific, or Japanese, oyster. These shellfish are renowned for their unique flavour, but they also have great nutritional value, and are rich in protein, vitamins A, D and B, as well as mineral salts.
Oysters are in particular demand at Christmas time, and as they are cultivated in nurseries rather than caught wild, their quality is guaranteed; it also means they reach markets while still fresh.
Oysters are perhaps most often eaten raw, with a squirt of lemon juice, but they can also be used to make soups, cooked in batter, or served in soya sauce, among many other options.
The 18th-century Anglo-Irish satirist, Jonathan Swift, is quoted as having said: “He was a bold man that first ate an oyster.” Yet, archaeological evidence shows people have been eating oysters since prehistoric times.
Oysters also have a reputation for having aphrodisiac qualities, partially because they resemble female sex organs. Yet, this may not completely be an old wives’ tale. US and Italian researchers found they are rich in amino acids that trigger increased levels of sex hormones; they also have a high zinc content, which aids the production of testosterone.
While oysters have a longer shelf life than most shellfish, they lose their flavour as they age. When storing oysters out of water, they should be refrigerated in 100% humidity, and never frozen.