The Malagash oyster (of the Crassostrea virginica species) has a deep shell that can be rounded or elongated. The shell is a sandy color with a green tint. The fresh oyster meat is firm with a mild brininess. It has complex flavors similar to wild mushrooms, and lingering sweet, vegetal, early notes. It is a bottom-cultivated oyster with a hard shell that makes it easy to shuck.
Oyster beds have been continuously found for thousands of years, first noted by the indigenous Mi’kmaq people, and later by European settlers. In Nova Scotia oysters can be found in sheltered beds and river mouth locations along the Northumberland Shore, the Bra d’Or Lakes of Cape Breton and in a few very isolated areas on the Eastern and Southern Shores. Collected from the wild by the Mi’kmaq and settlers alike, cultivated or “farmed” production of oysters in Canada began in the early 1800s.
Given the isolated nature of favorable oyster growing regions in Nova Scotia, each area possesses its own unique marine environment (salinity, temperature, tidal shifts, mineral/chemical composition and differing mixes of water-born flora and fauna). This in turn, leads to the oysters of each area expressing its own “merroir” in both the external shape/structure of the oyster shell, and, most importantly, in the taste of the oyster. Malagash oysters are harvested from Malagash Harbour, Nova Scotia. The first lease for oyster grounds in Canada was made to Senator MacFarlane from Wallace in 1867 with oyster farming beginning the following year. In 2013, an average of 30,000 oysters were harvested per week during the production season.
Malagash oysters are currently threatened by the arrival of MSX bacteria in the area, appearing in previously unaffected oyster grounds. It also faces competition from sea squirts (tunicates) and the European green crap, an invasive species. In addition, pollution from industrial operations or municipal waste can negatively affect the water quality.