The Tasty Oysters of Washington State: An Overview – by Ketcham Supply

Image showing various types of oysters in Washington state.
Image showing various types of oysters in Washington state.

Washington residents are lucky to have a variety of delicious local oysters from which to choose. It all started with the indigenous Olympia oyster, the original oyster on the block, but nowadays you are most likely to find Pacifics on the menu- and newer and carefully cultivated varieties like Virginicas and Kumamotos.

Renowned for its lush landscapes and vibrant marine life, Washington State is also a haven for oyster aficionados. Oyster production features sustainable aquaculture manned by committed growers. here, we like to shine a light on the cherished bivalves that grace our gables and bolster our local ecosystems.

The Rich History of Oysters in Washington

Oysters have been a cornerstone of Washington’s maritime heritage for centuries. The indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest were the first to harvest those bountiful shellfish, recognizing their nutritional value and integral role in the local ecosystems

Unique Characteristics and Flavors of Washington Oysters

Olympias: Small and Smoky

The Olympia oyster (Ostrea ludria) is Washington’s only native oyster species. It has historically thrived in the region’s estuaries and inlets. However, as demand grew and native oyster populations dwindled, introducing new varieties became necessary. Today, the olympia Oyster is hard to find and although efforts to restore its populations are underway, there are only a few places where they are grown. Olympias are never bigger than a 50 cent piece. They are briny and feature a smoky “copper” flavor.

Pacifics: Ruffled and Sweet

Image of a Pacific oyster, the majority of the state's oyster population.
Image of a Pacific oyster, the majority of the state’s oyster population.

The Pacific oysters’ (Crassostrea gigas) have signature ruffled shells. Grown in conditions that foster a unique phenotypic plasticity, these oysters can range from salty to sweet, with a refreshing cucumber-melon finish that makes them a favorite for serving on the half shell. Their adaptability in flavor is a delicious reflection of the natural world they come from. Pacific’s constitute about 98% of the state’s oyster farming

Virginicas: Big and Briny

Image of a Virginica oyster grown on an oyster farm.
Image of a Virginica oyster grown on an oyster farm.

Virginicas (Crassostra virginica) with their robust and hearty shells, are the epitome of the big, briny oyster experience. Each one is a nectar-filled treasure from the sea, offering a crunchy bite that is both satisfying and indicative of the rich waters where they are farmed.

Kumamotos: Sweet and Buttery

Image of a Kumamoto oyster, a delicacy in the oyster industry.
Image of a Kumamoto oyster, a delicacy in the oyster industry.

The Kumamoto oysters (Crassostrea sikamea) are like the fine wine of the oyster world-delicate, sweet, and with a buttery finish that lingers on the palate. Originating from Japan, these petite oysters pack a burst of flavor, making them a coveted delicacy for any oyster enthusiast.

Washington’s Oyster Regions

Ketcham Supply is known for its aquaculture supplies and commercial fishing gear. This includes oyster farming and oyster harvesting equipment and tools that can be used in Washington to enjoy these aquatic delicacies. Two notable Washington oyster regions include:

Hammersley Inlet

Nestled within the Olympia region, Hammersley Inlet stands out as a prolific oyster breeding ground. The inlet’s nutrient-rich waters, teeming with algae, provide an ideal environment for oysters to thrive. Due to the abundant food supply, the farmed oysters are generally fatter. The plumpness shows the local ecosystems are healthy. Oyster farmers work hard to keep the water clean for this growth.

Hood Canal

The Hood Canal is another gem in Washington’s oyster crown. Subjected to the canal’s high winds, these oysters develop into longer, wavier forms that are as visually intriguing as they are delicious. The dynamic conditions of the Hood Canal shape the oyster shells and give them a distinctive flavor that enthusiasts adore.

About Ketcham Supply

Ketcham Supply is a manufacturer and supplier of oyster farming equipment. The company supplies the highest quality bags, manufactures oyster cages with top US-made marine wire, and makes the floats that keep the cages aloft. Ketcham Supply works closely with farmers to tailor its equipment to meet the specific needs of their environment.