Oyster picking in the Netherlands. I honestly didn’t know anything about it. I had been to the Netherlands many times and I know that Creuse type oysters come from there, but somehow I had missed the fact that you can also pick them yourself.
Now that I was in the Netherlands for a bit, I thought I’d further look into it before the season arrives. It is suggested to pick oysters from September to April, but I researched and checked the places in order to be in the right place at the right time.
So the adventure started! We drove to Zeeland – first to Yerseke, an old oyster and fishing village. Nice place to walk around as well and there are all kinds of oyster and seafood restaurants! Oesterij, for example, was very nice. They also have a nice little shop there – in addition to the oysters, I also noticed very good oyster knives and cast iron pots for shells. The family oyster farm has been in existence since 1906, and by prior arrangement you can also take a tour with them – so a place definitely worth visiting.
Yerseke is an old small fishing village, but the old houses are starting to become a minority. Near the Oyster and Bubbles restaurant, there was a group of 3-4 fishermen’s huts, which conveyed the vibe of a fishing village. There are many new and beautiful places to eat, but the charm of the old beach village is starting to disappear.
The season for mussels is from July to April, so it’s also worth trying them. Making mussels is easy – a Croatian mussels and oyster farmer taught me this – you take half a bottle of white wine and a little olive oil, sprinkle some salt – bring the pot to boil on fire and it’s done. And if you want, you can throw chopped parsley on top, or put leeks in wine and oil while cooking. The delicious mussels will be ready to eat!
Rules for oyster picking
I would like to pick oysters like mushrooms myself as well. So I made the rules clear to myself:
- You can pick up to 10 kilos for your own use. That’s about 100 oysters in quantity, it is very difficult to eat that much for your own consumption. You are not allowed to pick to sell, only as much as you can eat yourself. In reality, it is about 12-16 oysters, sometimes 4-8 are enough, so there is more than enough for everyone.
- You have to stay away from the muddy areas and walk around the seabed carefully so you won’t disrupt the ecosystem. Do not scrape, scoop, stir or spin the seabed.
- If you see crayfish and crabs, you are not allowed to pick them
- Birds must not be disturbed and plants and algae must not be broken. Logical things.
- Oysters are allowed to be picked, for example, at the foot of the dam. In those places where the area is limited by stakes or tape – you are not allowed to go there.
- You must not go into the mud, even if you can get to the oyster beds through there.
- A map where you can see the areas where you can pick the oysters is here.
You can also check the local municipal rules before rushing to the sea with a bucket. And one last thing – oysters can be picked at low tide – not at high tide. Therefore, you must first find out when the tide is, otherwise you will rush to the seaside and return just as smartly with an empty bucket!
Places to go wild oyster picking
The province of Zeeland is one of the Dutch provinces with a long coastline and many beaches on both the North Sea and the Oosterschelde.
The Oosterschelde has several good places to pick oysters, including Oesterdam. It is a dam in the Oosterschelde that runs between Tholen and Zuid-Beveland. In addition, Oesterdam is also known as a good diving spot.
Yerseke in Zeeland, which I already talked about, is the oyster capital. There are many oyster beds along the beach where wild picking is allowed.
The third place in Zeeland that is known for oyster picking is Wilhelminadorp. Wilhelminadorp is located in the municipality of Goes and has about 745 inhabitants. The village is located on the Goes Canal, which flows into the Oosterschelde, which explains why you have a good chance of finding oysters here. Drive along Westhavendijk or Oosthavendijk to Goese Sas and here they are! Restaurant Katseveer is also a place where you can get oysters from the surrounding beach.
I chose this Westhavendijk for myself – it seems to be easily accessible and there were enough oyster beds. The locals said that I shouldn’t worry – there aren’t thousands of pickers and there is more than enough oysters for everyone.
St Annastrand in Goes has a good picking spot. In short, I mapped out this area for myself and that’s where I’m going. Also I recommended this place:
It is then located on the west side a little away from the previous ones. I didn’t get to patrol there myself this time.
Oyster picking – which oysters can be found
I read about local oyster history in Yerseke and it hasn’t been all fun and games at all! At the end of the 19th century and at the beginning of the previous one, there was overproduction – everyone hoped to get rich. Then came the oyster disease and the Japanese oyster was cultivated, which was hoped to be stronger. In the 1970s, the Japanese oyster gained supremacy and then completely destroyed the Dutch oyster. In other words, there is a Creuse-type Pacific oyster here in Zeeland. They need little space and it doesn’t really matter if the soil is hard or soft. They reproduce within one year and the growth is fast. They can grow up to 40 cm long – I found an empty oyster shell that was probably 22-25 cm long. Of course, such a big oyster does not look delicious!
Okay, so what to pick – when picking, you should either have a screwdriver or a small hammer with you – otherwise it’s hard to get them out of the sand. I tried – they are still “stuck-stuck” – you can’t do it with your nails. There is no point in picking up really small ones and not too big ones either. And very flat ones are a bit difficult to open, it is worth taking rounder ones – I’d recommend using this rule that the good ones are the ones that fit in the palm of your hand. You should only pick up those which shells
are really closed. If you accidentally break it whilst picking it yourself, you can eat it right away.
Equipment Needed for Oyster Pickers.
Wellies or waterproof shoes: Your feet will not stay dry. The dams are also slippery at times, so you have to be careful. I almost fell on the dams quite a few times. A smart oyster picker also brings dry clothes and spare shoes!
Gloves: compared to restaurant oysters, wild ones are more robust and muddier – no one has washed them for you, engraved a logo on them, and no one has put a white sheet on the table. Bring gloves.
A screwdriver or a small hammer – you poke quietly between the stone and the shell and take it out with your gloves.
A bucket or basket in which you put your oysters – there is no point in putting them in your pocket. Bring a small basket or bucket.
If you are gonna have a picnic – a blanket, an oyster knife, lemon and some good cremant or other bubbly drinks. Shallots if you want, but you can leave the salt at home. Napkins and drinking water too. Thank me later.
In addition, oysters are not only found on the beaches of Zeeland, but oysters can also be picked in Texel and Terschelling. I didn’t get there this time, but you can find the good places by googling. The easiest way to get to Zeeland is via Rotterdam Airport – about an hour’s drive. But Schiphol is also not very far – about two hours away. And most importantly don’t forget to have fun picking oysters!
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