OCTOBER OYSTER TREAT
Autumn leaves starting to fall, the days getting shorter and even thoughts turning to Christmas, but that need not prevent an idea for weekend treat in the warmer South West of England.
Built up over many years the town of Falmouth likes to celebrate its start of the oyster-dredging season with a food festival with the native type of bivalve (Ostrea edulis) its star.
The Fal river and harbour area have for many hundreds of years been a great centre for fishing for native flat oysters and that only the special sail boats or hand rowed dredging boats are allowed a licence to gather the maritime mollusc harvest. The agreement set out in an act of Parliament back in Victorian times to carry out this style of fishing has made this a very sustainable resource and this is only one of two such places in the world to do so.
Some 10,000 oysters are generally sold during the four day festival and it attracts some 30,000 visitors according to one of the organisers Make Rangecroft of Falmouth Festivals Ltd. “Its their sweet taste that makes so special and it’s a very sustainable delicacy too” said Mike.
Planned by his company the undercover-tented area on the quayside near to the Maritime Museum throngs with locals and visitors allowing the event to be enjoyed under most weather conditions. October can be delightfully warm and sunny in West Cornwall, however it would be a shame if the odd rain shower scuppered the event which has been running for 18 years.
Celebrity and leading local chefs, music, food and drink along with parades help to make this a colourful four days in the town. It’s a great opportunity for local Cornish food producers to show off their wider range of products to an interested foodie public.
Dick and James Strawbridge two British TV chefs made an appearance at the festival taking part in a cooking challenge against two local chefs in the main demonstration area.
Local producers such as the Cornish Salt Company, Stevens Fish Company from nearby Newlyn, cheese producer Worthy Cheddar, numerous local food outlets along with a local brewery and a national champagne maker helped to make the event a refreshing experience!
Cafés and restaurants surround the event area so this helps to make the festival location pretty well ideal. Another top TV chef Rick Stein has a fish and chip outlet nearby, that too is popular with visitors.
Falmouth has plenty of other attractions nearby with beaches, boat trips and botany, as there are a large number of wide ranging gardens in the fairly immediate area. The narrow streets of the town make it an interesting place for some general shopping or to pick up the obligatory pasty! Or even a Cornish tartan gift, yes they do have their own tartan, the black and yellow pattern products do make potential gift idea for friends left behind.
The town has a good range of accommodation on offer, hotels and classy B&Bs with some great reputations and some are just an oyster throw away!
Within the area there are a number of larger hotels, 6 miles towards the Helford River a country house hotel set in 65 acres the Budock Vean with spa and golf course or a ferry boat away the Idle Rocks at St Mawes; As close to the water as is possible without getting in it, both good choices.
After harvesting the oysters they are purified before going to market, then they are sold out of the county, mainly to smart metropolitan restaurants or for European export. The highly sought after Fal fished shellfish are much prized in many countries and certainly very much by the French.
If you ever wanted to know what term is used for the tricky treat opening operation… well that is called ‘shucking’.
Personally I left it to the experts, as one slip with the special knife they use and I may of used a word very similar!