You either love them or hate them. There doesn’t seem to be any middle ground. We are talking about the humble oyster, also considered a gourmet delicacy and claimed to be an aphrodisiac.
Close to Tavira, one finds Moinho dos Ilheus, a family-owned property which has survived three generations. Spend an afternoon with second-generation Margarida, and you will learn that she became an oyster farmer through default. Their property lies on the Ria Formosa Natural Park where the natural tides and cool waters nurture these mollusks. Watch an oyster being freshly shucked (it looks easy, but don’t be fooled) and take a peek. A distinctive shape, full-bodied, smooth and bathed in Portugal’s best ocean waters. Just like any of us, oysters are what they eat.
“Is there a correct way to eat an oyster?” we ask Margarida. Some of us admit smothering them in tabasco with dashings of salt and pepper. We are told a squeeze of lemon is all that you need for Moinho’s quality oysters. One can tip out the small amount of salty water or savor it with your oyster. From shell to mouth, or fork to mouth…it’s up to you. Enjoy the texture and chew.
It becomes apparent that this family nurture their oysters lovingly. They understand what is needed to produce a superior product. It is a labor-intensive job. No machinery is involved, nor any artificial means. Human hands mold the shells and turn the oysters during the tides. Before they are weighed and sorted, each oyster shell is cleaned with a child-size toothbrush.
Naturally and organically grown, with the smallest ecological footprint possible, these happy oysters thrive in a process that highlights Moinho dos Ilheus’ commitment to quality. Half a dozen oysters raw please. No lemon needed.
These very special oysters are served at some of the Algarve’s finest restaurants, including Noélia and Jernomino in Cabanas and Ocean at VILA VITA Parc. To serve at home, stop by Apolonia Supermercardo, or reserve some directly from Moinho dos Ilheus.
For those interested in visiting “Oysters of the Mill,” (Moinho dos Ilheus), these gastronomic tours are offered from Monday to Friday, 4.00 – 6.00 pm with Eating Algarve Food Tours.
Moinho dos Ilheus
Sitio dos Ilheus, Livramento
8800-102 LUZ de TAVIRA