Oysters raised in salt marsh ponds
Claire salt pond cultivation
We produce three types of oysters:
Our oysters never leave the claire salt ponds in St-Clément-des-Baleines. When we buy our oyster spat in Vendée, each spat is only 2 mm long. They go through their first growth cycle in downwellers with screens on the bottom.
Downwellers in the Nursery
Next, we transfer them to lantern nets for the pre-growout phase. The last step is finishing, when the oysters live on the clay bottoms of our claire salt ponds.
Brassage manuel des huîtres en lanternes japonaises
What sets our salt marsh-based oyster farming apart is the intensive manual labour it takes to grow our oysters. We need to work hard enough to reproduce the motion of the sea. This means we regularly lift the oysters out of the water, mimicking the movement of the tides.
When they're out of the water, the oysters close their shells tight, strengthening their adductor muscle, which will help them stay closed later when they're sold.
We also mimic the action of the waves on the oysters by regularly tumbling them, breaking off delicate new shell growth and pushing them to grow into a more regular and balanced shape. This means oysters with deeper cupping and firmer flesh.
Our oysters are cultivated alongside gilt-head sea bream and salt marsh tiger prawns. During their pre-growout phase, they are raised with sea bream. This is a mutually beneficial situation, since the fish’s rich faeces provide nutrients for phytoplankton, which is then consumed by the oysters.
During the refining phase, between May and November, the oysters are cultivated alongside salt marsh tiger prawns.
Manually tumbling the oysters in their lantern nets
This is another beneficial partnership for the oysters, since as the prawns move along the bottom of the claire salt ponds at night, they stir up nutrients, bacteria, and phytoplankton, which become suspended in the water. Because oysters are filter feeders, this is practically like spoon feeding them! After the summer spawning season, oysters can shrink and become weak. Feeding on the suspended phytoplankton allows them to plump up quickly.
Juvenile salt marsh oysters
Salt marshes oysters are special
Claire salt pond aquaculture allows our oysters to grow faster than others. Our rich, fertile water is nourishing food for our 100% salt pond-raised oysters, giving them a meaty texture and subtle hints of both the land and sea.
As they filter phytoplankton, zooplankton, and bacteria out of the seawater, oysters capture the essence of their marine terroir: their merroir.
Each merroir is unique: often due to the composition of the underlying soil. Based on whether the soil is heavy clay or something sandier, whether it is grey, blue, or red, even when oysters are raised at the same density, their taste will differ significantly from marsh to marsh. Oysters from La Ferme des Baleines offer us the aroma of their claire salt pond home: a unique merroir that arises from the salt pond's mix of land and sea.
Because they are raised in our salt ponds, our oysters have more glycogen than oysters raised in the open sea. This glycogen creates a hint of sweetness that balances out their delicate salty flavour and gives them a silky but firm texture.