By: Deborah Reid
Eastern oyster, Wellfleet oyster, Atlantic oyster, Virginia oyster, American oyster
A highly prized oyster in Canada and considered one of the finest produced on the East Coast. The meat is plump, has a medium-firm texture, and ivory colour, with an excellent briny flavour with mineral notes, and a sweet, grassy finish. The shell is thick, flat, and varies in shape from round to oval with concentric rings, averaging 6 to 7.5 cm (2.5 to 3 in.). The colour is dirty white to grey while the interior is bright white with a deep purple or red-brown muscle scar. Available year round, but particularly delicious in the cold months. It’s the perfect oyster for serving on the half shell with a classic sauce mignonette, lemon wedges, or grated fresh horseradish. They’re just as delicious cooked on the grill and topped with compound herb butter, baked for Oysters Rockefeller, or shucked, breaded and deep fried with sauce remoulade. Low in calories and fat, they contain more than a day’s worth of vitamin B12.
The species is native to the North Eastern coast of North America, where oysters have been harvested for millennia by First Nations. Ruisseau oysters are grown in Eel Lake, near the town of St. Anne de Ruisseau, on the south-western tip of Nova Scotia. It’s a unique tidal lake that’s relatively shallow, and a bit warmer, with a mix of salt and fresh water and approximately 2.5 per cent salinity. Ten-foot tides refresh it twice daily. The water is so clear you can see crabs scurrying along, mussels growing on the bottom, and of course eels. The oysters grow from seed to market size in three years. They grow in trays/cages that in the summer float on the nutrient-rich water’s surface, and in winter are suspended from the silt bottom. The oysters play a significant role in preserving the quality of the lake. One oyster can filter more than 50 gallons of water in 24 hours.
Nolan D’Eon and his family have spent more than 20 years growing oysters at Eel Lake Oyster Farm Ltd. The business is low impact and sustainable and produces upwards of 4,000,000,000 oysters annually. They ship within 24 hours of harvest, and much of the production goes to Ontario, Quebec, and the New England states. Their oysters are Ocean Wise certified.