The oyster has long been considered the delicacy of the wealthy a luxury reserved for grand special events and occasions. So would you be surprised to learn that the Oyster was once the food of the poor?
In 1298 Oysters were sold by the gallon for less than 1p at a time when the Cornish coast was abundant in wild oyster reefs. Poorer coastal villagers including those of, ‘Smithick’, (Falmouth), would head to the muddy shoreline of creeks and rivers and collect oysters as part of their everyday diet. In reality the oysters richness in zinc, (yes the testosterone inducing mineral and one of the reasons they are considered an aphrodisiac), Iron, Calcium, Selenium, magnesium, protein, Vitamin A and Vitamin B12 meant that they were getting a nutritional addition to a relatively poor diet. Even better, the natural lay-out of the estuary created a continual flow of water that stirred up a steady fresh supply of nutrients placing Fal River oysters at the top for being the most delicious in the world. Something the well travelled and resourceful Romans cottoned on to hundreds of years previously and wasted no time in exporting them back home.
As the 1860’s drew to a close disease, pollution and over fishing caused by dredging as far back as the Roman occupation meant Cornwall’s oyster beds were almost destroyed. Equally alarming was the potential loss of knowledge and skills of an organic and sustainable industry employed by generations of oyster fisherman. This is also marks the turning point for the oyster as a cheap accessible source of nutrients to an expensive delicacy of the wealthy. The oyster was now in short supply.
In 1876 a set of bylaws were passed to protect the Fal estuaries oysters and ensured the sustainable methods of dredging that remain in operation today. The use of non mechanical sail and punt and thick strong nets makes Fal River Oyster Fisheries the only sustainable fleet in the world. Very little has changed about the estuaries layout which means that the native oysters not only remain among the best in the world but grow quicker too. Just as well because they are the focus of The Falmouth Oyster Festival every year and why fisheries continue to protect the wild oyster reefs of the Fal Estuary.
The festival is the perfect opportunity to appreciate, enjoy and indulge in the history, creativity, talent and tastes that make Falmouth a wonderful festival location. Believe us when we say WE KNOW HOW TO CELEBRATE!
Find out whats on – Falmouth Oyster Festival Programme