We at J.P.’s Shellfish are once again offering the ever popular, though admittedly somewhat difficult source, Belon oysters (Ostrea edulis). The Belons are very much a species unto themselves in the oyster world. Originally harvested exclusively in the coastal French region that bears the same name, the species was introduced to the Gulf of Maine last century, and have flourished in some areas.
As an aside… Just as true “Champagne” is produced only in the Champagne region of France… True “Belons” are sourced only from the waters of the the Belon region of France. Soooo… In an attempt not to offend any Francophiles, any O. edulis harvested from anyplace other than that aforementioned region is referred to as a “Flat”. The Flats we typically source are really just a lovely bit of bycatch from our Harpswell, Maine hard-shell clam fishery. The clams are all hand-raked…And occasionally, one of our clammers will (quite by accident) happen upon a bed of Flats. Bonus!
The Harpswell Flats are remarkably round, and the shells may seem more reminiscent of that of a scallop than an oyster. As the valves are relatively large, it is not uncommon for Flats to have difficulty keeping their shells closed once removed from the water. This results in an accelerated loss of liquor, and the ultimate result is an abbreviated life expectancy. So what to do? Well, each Harpswell Flat you receive from J.P.’s Shellfish has not only been banded, but is also hand-packed (cup-side down, of course).
By placing elastic bands around the oysters, the Flat ’s adductor muscles don’t have to exert as much force to keep their valves closed. Placing the oysters in the boxes cup-side down allows the cupped valve to act as a natural vessel for the liquor. These two seemingly simple acts go a long way in making sure you receive only the finest product possible.
Our Flats are typically packed out in 35 or 50 counts, depending on the size of the individual oysters. The Flat’s flavor profile is quite unique in the oyster world… The high brine so often associated with Gulf of Maine oysters is overshadowed by strong metallic and mineral tones. Like berets, mimes, and escargot… The Harpswell Flats possess a distinct flavor which will leave few unopinionated. Any and all pre-orders on the Flats will be greatly appreciated, and go a long way in minimizing disappointing.