Oysters. You either love them with a passion, or shudder at the very idea.
Noel Baggaley, a local oyster farmer of 40 years and confirmed oyster lover, says it can often take a few attempts to get used to the texture and flavour, but once you’re converted, you’ll never go back.
“I remember talking to (chef) Matt Moran, who said the first time he ate an oyster was on his grandfather’s lease and he hated the taste,” said Noel.
“He said, being a chef, he had to like oysters, so his grandfather said to him ‘you eat one oyster a day for ten days and at that the end of that tenth day, you’ll be saying where’s the next one?’”
For those like Matt who persist, there are plenty of rewards to be had, not least the incredible flavour: “It’s a metallic, mineral taste and there’s a very strong after flavour, you’ll still have the flavour in your mouth up to an hour after you’ve eaten an oyster, it just lingers with you that long,” said Noel.
The oyster also has a whole host of remarkable health benefits, including extremely high levels of immune boosting zinc (a mineral many Australians are lacking), iodine, selenium, iron and omega 3 fatty acids.
Noels raises his Sydney Rock Oysters (renowned as one of the best tasting in the world) locally in the Brunswick River, finishes them off in the Tweed River, and sells them fresh at the New Brighton and Mullumbimby Farmers Markets. He says oysters take on the flavour of the water they’re grown in, and those from our warm waters have a sweeter flavour than those that grow further south. For oyster connoisseurs like Noel, they’re best as is – straight from the shell – but Noel says a little citrus works wonderfully too:
“One of the best complements to the oysters is the Australian native finger lime. They are perfect with oysters, it doesn’t mask the flavour of the oyster, it just enhances it,” he said.
For real newbies, cooked oysters can be a good introduction:
“If you are really hesitant, you can cook them Kilpatrick, Mornay, or something similar to that,” Noel said.
• Find Noel Baggaley’s Brunswick Seed Oysters at the New Brighton Farmers Market every Tuesday.
– Words and pic by Kate O’Neill