Oyster Waters

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
The flavor of an oyster also depends on its home waters, which is why it makes sense to give geographical designations to oysters. The greater the salinity of the water, the more taste-active amino acids the oyster’s cells must contain to balance the dissolved salt outside, and so the more savory its flavor. The local plankton and dissolved minerals will leave distinctive traces in the animal; and predators, currents, and exposure in the tidal zone will exercise and enlarge its adductor muscle. Water temperature determines how rapidly the oyster grows, and even its sex: warmth and plentiful food usually mean fast growth and development into a plump female creamy with millions of tiny eggs; cold water means slow growth, an indefinitely postponed sexual maturity, and a leaner, crisper texture.