Oyster Leaf: The Incredible Vegetarian Bivalve!

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Photo: W&T Seafood

I popped it into my mouth and chewed. Salt, mushroom and a touch of minerality, fresh and potent. What’s that, you say? Why yes, I have now tried my very first oyster leaf!

Oyster leaf (Mertensia maritima) also goes by the common names oysterplant or sea bluebells, and it grows wild in the northern parts of Canada, Greenland and Scotland. The plant was little known until it was picked up by avant garde chefs, like Ferran Adria and Grant Achatz, and incorporated into their tasting menus as a playful riff on the oyster.

I had heard of the oyster leaf before, but dismissed it somewhat skeptically as a stunt. I mean, how can a plant possibly taste like an oyster? Then, at the Star Chefs conference, I spotted a package of oyster leaf at the Fresh Origins Microgreens booth. They graciously let me sample a piece, and I was blown away by the resemblance to an oyster. Sure, you don’t get the oyster liquor or the same texture, but by and large, the oyster leaf matches the oyster’s brininess and earthiness spot on. It’s an incredible experience!

Sadly, the Fresh Origins folks did not have any oyster leaf available for sale, however you might be able to contact them for a source online. Or, if you’d like to try the oyster leaf in a restaurant setting, you can go to Alinea in Chicago, where it is currently on the menu.

Has anyone else tried oyster leaf? Would you be willing to skip the oysters for Oyster Leaf Rockefeller?!

11 Comments

  1. I know about this, as this species and the genus have been the focus of my dissertation research over the last five + years. As I have heard, it is supposedly quite tasty. Native Americans ate Mertensia maritima, but sadly, I have not yet had the experience to try it myself. All of these plants dry horridly and are pretty pathetic herbarium specimens. Also, southern populations of M. maritima are disappearing, allegedly due to climate change. So it’s recent discovery/popularity might not be very timely!

    Posted by Mare
  2. Neat, thanks for the info! It was definitely difficult to find oyster leaf to sample, we happened to stumble upon it by chance at a food trade show. Hopefully enough is cultivated so that it becomes more accessible for everyone to try.

    Posted by Crystal Cun
  3. Pingback: Restaurant Review: Geranium, Copenhagen (Pt 1) | welcome to andyville

  4. We have had this on the menu on and off. We grow it here in Sonoma county.

    Posted by chef steveo
  5. Koppert Cress sells oyster leaves all year round.
    usa.koppertcress.com

    Posted by Natalia
  6. Your article, http://wtseafood.com/oyster-leaf-the-incredible-vegetarian-bivalve/, about the oyster leaf did not seem to mention that it grows in Iceland. See, for example: http://wtseafood.com/oyster-leaf-the-incredible-vegetarian-bivalve/. It’s also mentioned on p. 134 of the May, 2016, issue of Food & Wine, in an article about modern Icelandic cuisine.
    Searching for more info on it is how I found your article.

    Posted by Donald Heskett
  7. Several species of the genus Mertensia grow where I live in Colorado’s Rockies. They all taste like oyster! Cheers:)

    Posted by erica
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