Wild Oyster Hunting in Denmark

A trip to North Jutland in Denmark to take part in an oyster safari, hunting out what may be the last of the native European flat oysters.

Legend has it that the only reason Julius Caesar invaded Britain was to steal the fresh European oysters that grew on the country’s banks. Maybe for their pearls, maybe for their sweet delicate taste or maybe, as some say, for their rumored capacity to make a man a better lover. (It was, after all, Casanova who was said to eat 50-a-day for breakfast.)

Caesar would send them back to Rome from Britain packed in sacks of snow, an arduous task for sure and in Denmark, where I currently stand in tight rubber boots with cold water up to my waist, they were for many years reserved only for royalty, the act of fishing them punishable by death.

At one point they were dismissed as mere peasant fodder, however, throughout most parts of history they’ve been been regarded as one of life’s greatest delicacies and as I slowly wade into the icy cold water of Limfjord in North Jutland near the very top of Denmark, net in one hand, bright orange oyster spotter in the other and Old Billy – the name given to the trusty shucking knife in my back pocket – I realize I’m about to help myself to one of the most sought after foods on the planet. Picked directly from the largest remaining wild bed of European oysters in the world. “Spot it, pluck it, shuck it”.

“We think this is the only thing we have in Denmark that resembles caviar – it’s a truly delicious pure food. You taste it and you can taste the nature that we live in,” explains Kasper Fogh Hansen, my head swaying with the water as I use my bright orange spotter to check if what I think I’ve found is a fresh oyster or yet another rock. Kasper works with ‘Food’, a small team of people intent on educating the world about Nordic gastronomy and just how great the European oysters of Denmark are.

“We started two years ago. At that time most of the Danish people didn’t even know we produced oysters, maybe the best in the world. They were being exported without any name, brand, destination. Without anything printed on them.”

The sun continues to beam. Maybe the thick hat was overkill. I’m half a mile from shore, water rising with every step I take and very aware that it’s now up to my stomach, any doubts of drowning flattened by the thrill of the catch. I reach down and submerge my hand before plucking my first one. Flat? Check. Smooth? Check. Round? Check. “I’ve got one”.

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Wild Oyster Hunting in Denmark