Bumper oyster harvesting starts

THE oyster harvesting season began yesterday with a "helping hand" from Mother Nature.

THE oyster harvesting season began yesterday with a "helping hand" from Mother Nature.

As the first shells were picked out of the creek off West Mersea, in Essex, oyster cultivator David Gladwell said he was fortunate there was rain before July or the haul might not have been so plentiful.

Mr Gladwell, along with his wife and two daughters, harvest oysters in the fertile creeks in Essex every year on September 1. Some are sold to Harrods.

He said native oysters grow well in the creeks because of the combination of shallow waters, nearby marshland, sea water and rain water.

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"We've got a really good quality this year,' said Mr Gladwell. "We had quite a bit of rain before July and the mixture of the rain and sea water makes for better breeding.

"The marshland is like a sponge and when it rains it produces really good nutrients for the oysters.

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"It is in the hands of nature. In other years there has been no rain at all but we have gotten by.'

Native Ostrea Edulis oysters are dredged from the River Blackwater and laid in the warm shallow creeks for "fattening' in March. By September 1 they are ready for harvesting and are collected by the Gladwell family who trawl through their oyster bays in their boat - Boy Steven II - and capture the shellfish.

They are then purified and shipped off to other parts of the UK and end up on the plates at some of London's top restaurants as well as going on sale in Harrods.

Mr Gladwell, 41, who is one of a handful of native oyster cultivators in the UK, began oyster harvesting more than 20 years ago.

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