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How Salty?

Updated: Jan 20

Map by Chesapeake Bay Program
 

When it comes to highest salinity, “sea-sides” reign supreme. The Chesapeake and her many rivers & estuaries provide oyster lovers one of the most diverse salt and flavor profiles on earth. 

 

Oysters can survive in water that contains 5-35 parts per thousands (PPT) but require at least 8 PPT to grow. Different strains of oysters grow at different salinities so moving an oyster from one environment to another can be risky if the salinity of the two are radically different. LOC works with hatcheries whose nursery waters are a similar to our own.


Higher salinities support the greatest productivity. Salinity also determines the nature of competition from other organisms as well as diseases specific to oysters.


Dermo and MSX, which decimated the Chesapeake oyster fishery during the turn of the century, have greater success at infecting oysters if waters have at least 10 PPT salt. Thus, the impact of those diseases was greater in Virginia’s section of the Bay compared to Maryland’s less briny areas to the north.


Based on the mean-surface salinity map, we can start to appreciate where Lynnhaven Legends fit into this range. Lynnhaven’s have historically been considered a medium-high salinity. Indeed our own monitoring supports the ranges mapped for our specific area.

From a taste perspective, the relative saltiness of oysters comes down to personal preference and situations. 6-12 seasides is perfect for those who prefer high-brine (+30 PPT).


When we test salinity with our electronic gauge, it typically reads between 18-21 PPT

However, if you have ever been to an oyster roast with very salty oysters, it can be difficult to indulge on many because the salt catches up with you.


Low salinity oysters tend to be milder and creamier and have fewer mineral tones than high-salinity oysters. Certainly salt has a big impact on taste, but the total taste profile of an oyster includes contributions from other location specific factors. The flavor of an oyster has everything to do with how local geography and water characteristics imbue a unique flavor.


As such, oyster tastes differ regionally and also from bay to bay and creek to creek. This is because everything from salinity, water temperature, minerals in the water and the algae they eat, make an contribution.l All of these factors affect taste, size and texture. The culinary artisan will attempt to appreciate this unique flavor and adjust recipes accordingly.

Member Note: Your oyster tasting journal is your guide to exploring the nuance of oyster tastes. If you do not have one, or need a new one, just ask – we will also have copies available at events.

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