Oysters are a particular foodie treat in Tasmania, as they're readily available and rather affordable. These shellfish have been a major dietary staple in Tasmania from the time before the British landed. In fact, British settlers often used oyster shells as a building material.
The Tasmanian oyster industry
produces 3.6 million dozen oysters each year (that works out to 43.2 a year) farmed by some 70 producers.
The most common oyster in Tasmania is the Pacific Oyster, which has a deeply cupped shell and flesh that's described in the Tasmanian cookbook The House of Oysters as "pale ivory, steely grey or silver-white and lined with a black and brown frill". Tasmania also produces a smaller pacific oyster with an orange brown or gold shell. Flat oysters are a native Tasmanian species, with a golden-tinged flesh. They flourish in saltier water.
Oysters are grown around the north, east and south-east coasts of Tasmania – from the far north-west coast through to the southern part of the D’Entrecasteaux Channel, south of Hobart. Since oysters filter water to eat, their meat is influenced by the waters that they are grown in. Locals can detect differences between oysters that are farmed in different waters, whether it's Freycinet, Cloudy Bay, Bouldan's Bay or Bruny Bay. You can easily make it a project to try as many different Tasmanian oysters as possible as they are a fixture on many menus, and at farm markets.
Ordering Tasmanian Oysters
, oysters are available on the half shell, "natural", with no topping, or with dressing. The most popular dressing is the Australian comfort food tradition, Oysters Kilpatrick -- topped with bacon, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce. But Tasmania's chefs delight in inventing new oyster dressings from soy and wasabi to caviar.
Tour an Oyster Farm
You can also check out how oyster farming works -- growing oysters from larvae (or spat) to ready to eat, a process that involves moving teensy tiny pebble like lobsters to baskets of bigger weave as they grow. Barilla Bay Oysters
offers a farm tour, which includes shucking and a tasting -- there's also a gift shop and a fine restaurant with water views.
Important Oyster Caveat!
When the oysters are spawning, farming shuts down. Fresh oysters become less available, restaurants often rely on the frozen variety. This usually happens around February. The best season for oysters in Tasmania is the spring. Just bear in mind that Tasmania's spring is the Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere.