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Seomjin River Cherry Flower Oysters

SOUTH KOREA | Monday, 28 April 2014 | Views [1058]

Seomjin River oysters

Seomjin River oysters

In Korea's South Gyeongsang Province where tidal waters bring salinity up into the lower reaches of the Seomjin River, there grows oysters. Estuary oysters or Crassostrea gigas as they are known to the scientific community. Commercially they are known as the "Pacific Oyster," and to Korean people they are referred to as 'Cherry Flower' oysters or "Kot.guel" in their language. The oysters are given this name by the Koreans because the best time to eat the oysters is around the same time of year that the cherry trees in Korea blossom with their white and pink and red flowers - in April.

Estuary oysters grow in other parts of the world, too, but depending on the geography of their locations they have different tastes and shell structures. They are generally the same size as the Korean variety, which is said to be the indigenous home of the 'Kotguel,' and are harvested at about the same growth rate of 2 to 3 years when the oysters are mature adults. But along the Seomjin River northwest of the town of Hadong on county route 19, there's a family of restaurateurs, who also operate a cherry oyster aqua farm, who let their oysters mature as long as 4 to 5 years before harvesting, which produces a very large size bivalve. The owner of the family's restuarant told my friend and I when we were having a late afternoon lunch of Kotguel and crab soup (along with several side dishes and rice), that  they have even allowed some of their oysters to mature for as long as 7 to 8 years. But at that length of time the oysters are beginning to enter into the last stage of their life cycle and the quality starts to decline.

Allowing the oysters to age for four or five years, one might think that the oysters would be tough, chewy and quite salty to the taste. But my friend and I found just the opposite to be true. The oysters we were served were humongous in size, tender in texture, and absent of any heavy taste of salt. We were quite surprised when the owner told us that that aprticular batch of Kotguel were just about five years in growth. The only downside to such a large bivalve laying before the diner[s] is that it is not easy to eat (with chopsticks, a fork or with fingers), thus I highly recommend, which my friend and I had to do, cutting the oysters into smaller, more manageable morsels with a pair of kitchen scissors.

People around Korea seek out these springtime delicacies even though the price can be quite high for the premium sized and plumpest of the harvest. Cherry Flower oysters in Korea are genrally served at their 2-3 year growth rate, thus being about the same smallish size as their counterparts around the globe. Most restaurants around the country that do serve Cherry Flower oysters, five-star hotels included, serve the smaller but still succulent types. Only around the town of Hadong will travelers find the large species, and at that you will have to ask and shop around to seek them out.

Tags: eating bivalves, oysters, seafood


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