Colchester oysters gain Slow Food recognition

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Colchester native oysters have become the third British product to be granted Slow Food Presidia status

It has recently been announced that Colchester native oysters, a delicacy familiar to anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting Richard Haward’s Oysters at Borough Market, have been granted Slow Food Presidia status—only the third time this much sought-after certification has been granted to a British product.

Colchester native oysters have been cultivated by the Haward family since the 18th century, and are brought to Borough today by seventh generation oysterman Richard. The distinctively saline flavour and plump, juicy texture of this rare breed of bivalve are a direct result of the River Blackwater’s exceptionally high salt content, making them unique not only to the UK, but to this very specific corner of Essex.

Carefully cultivated
While cultivated as carefully as possible—they can only be harvested between 4th August and 14th May; processing is minimal; sorting or ‘grading’ is done by hand—the Hawards’ efforts at sustaining their local oyster population are forced to contend with the simultaneous pressures of warming waters due to climate change, the impact of the run off from fertilisers and weed killers, and the imminent threat of a new power station close to the site.

It was, therefore, with great pride and relief that Richard and his team received this news from the Slow Food movement. The Presidia status, which carries a great deal of weight around the world, will provide a higher profile—and, hopefully, greater protection—to the distinctive ecosystem and traditional processing methods that make Colchester natives so special.

“There are only 500 Presidia in the world, so it’s very exciting indeed to see the Colchester oyster being recognised in this way,” says Shane Holland, executive chairman of Slow Food UK. “It acts as a guarantee of the heritage and uniqueness of the product, and only adds to Borough’s reputation for the very finest and most sustainable products.”

Read more about the philosophy behind Richard Haward’s oyster fishery