Get to know the Knysna legend – experience the Knysna Oyster!
Knysna and oysters go together like fish and chips. Anyone who visits the area should do themselves a favour and experience the flavour of a real, wild, Knysna coastal oyster.
The cultivated oyster
There are two varieties on offer – the cultivated Pacific Oyster, Crassostrea gigas, and the wild oyster, Crassostrea margaritacea, or the Knysna Oyster. Originating from the Sea of Japan, the cultivated oyster is grown in Port Elizabeth and Saldanha Bay in submerged cages or intertidal racks. These oysters can be just as meaty as their wilder cousins, and their shells are more evenly shaped. Experiments in oyster farming in the Knysna lagoon started during the latter part of the 1940s. Things started going swimmingly for a while when farming the Pacific Oyster took off during the 1970s, but turned out not to be economically or ecologically viable.
The wild oyster
The wild Knysna Oyster, on the other hand, occurs naturally along the southern coast of South Africa between the Transkei in the east and Cape Agulhas in the West. You can easily identify a wild oyster by its irregularly shaped shell and fleshy, full body. These are the oysters that our ancestors enjoyed 165 000 years ago. Their fossilised shells are found in the middens of the people who roamed the coast and gave birth to modern man. They are now collected in the intertidal zone by licenced harvesters.
Oysters are widely available on the menus of many local restaurants and, if slurping a ready-shucked oyster from a prepared half shell is all you’d like to do, enjoy! Or you can go a bit further, get out of your shell, and embark on an oyster adventure …
An oyster adventure
Knysna Charters offer a hands-on experience where you can learn to shuck an oyster and how to tell the difference between farmed and wild varieties. More fun is their Oyster Tour. Cruise along the Knysna lagoon as you learn about and eat oysters, and wash them down with some crisp local white wine.
Harvest your own
You can also take the family to the beach for the day and hunt your own oysters. 34 South made this video that should give you some tips on how to find, shuck and serve a fresh wild oyster. The locals’ preferred way? With a squeeze of a fresh lemon and some ground pepper.