You may know a thing or two about Oysters, but the prized Oyster of Mali Ston on the southern Dalmatian Coast in Croatia is something to explore. Oysters are known to be rather decadent and a delicacy. Diving a little deeper, the life of an Oyster is one of resilience, adventure and transformation. The process of sustainable Oyster farming in Mali Ston highlights just this.
The Oyster Motif
The Oyster motif has been used in my children’s picture book, MY GRANDMA IS LIKE THE SEA, due to it being a direct link to my heritage. More information about the Oyster will be attained upon reading this article. Feel free to share some of this information with the young ones upon reading the book.
Some questions you can pose include:
- Do you know where Oysters come from?
- Do you know that it takes much time and patience for an Oyster to be ready from sea to table?
- What does the life of an Oyster teach you?
- Do you know that the quality of the sea water affects the growth of an Oyster?
- Does every Oyster produce a pearl?
- Do you know how a Pearl Oyster naturally forms a pearl? READ HERE for some insight.
- What are ways we can look after the ocean?
For some further reading on ‘What we can Learn from the Oyster’ READ HERE.
The southern Dalmatian Coast boasts a history rich in mariculture. My connection to the Oyster runs deep. It is a connection to my heritage, where there is a strong tradition of sustainable Mussel and Oyster farming dating back to Roman times. 
Check out this video capturing my cousin inviting you into the world of Oysters and Oyster Farming in Mali Ston.
Mali Ston is famous for its prized Oyster, and is acclaimed around the world as one of the best. The Oyster being the Ostrea Edulis Oyster aka European Flat Oyster. The conditions in Mali Ston are just perfect due to the combination of salt, fresh water and phytoplankton, as well as nutrients in the surrounding waters. It is claimed that Franz Josef, Austrian Emperor, had these Oysters shipped to him every month. It is also believed that some nobles of the former Dubrovnik Republic (Ragusa) were paid in Oysters in lieu of money. 
The Ostrea Edulis Oyster (European Flat Oyster) from Mali Ston received the Grand Prix and Gold Medal at the General Trades International Exhibition in London in 1936. It is also the 28th Croatian product to receive the European protected designation of origin. 
Tennis and Oysters go hand in hand!
What do Oysters and Tennis have in common? Given that I am a Tennis fan, I thought it would be fitting to share this. Former World No. 3 Tennis Player Marin Cilic’s family have served up an interest in the production of Oysters in the surrounding Mali Ston Bay waters.
Read on below about what’s involved in the production of Oysters…
Sustainable Oyster Farming – The Process
Have you ever taken a closer look at the rock pools when walking along the beach? You may have noticed a world of oysters beautifully scattered around and attached to the surface. Maybe you know about deep water Oysters?  In Mali Ston, Oysters will be found in a very unique manner. The process of Oyster Farming has been carried out sustainably for generations. The method of doing so has remained quite the same which is outlined below.
The entire heart goes into farming Oysters. Truly. The process is entirely manual and having the confidence and patience to see it grow to its best ability is critical.
In Mali Ston, the cultivation process begins with the collection of wild spat (‘sjeme’) and lowering of nets in the water. At the end of the first year, the young Oysters that are found to be mature enough are cemented onto a rope and placed approximately 1.5m down in the sea’s depths. These Oysters remain on the rope for another 2 years until time for harvest.
Overall, it takes approximately 3 years for an Oyster (Ostrea Edulis Oyster) to be ready from sea to table.
Both a delicacy AND a delicate process!
Sustainable Oyster Farming in Mali Ston takes into account the life cycle of an Oyster. Harvest does not take place when the Oysters are reproducing.  Consideration of the ecological surrounding environment is also taken into account. It is a very delicate process and even the currents and overall water quality play a part in flavouring the seafood.
Quick Fact folks! In the past, oak branches were used to grow the Oysters instead of ropes. 
Did You Know?
Oh shucks! I mustn’t forget to mention the following facts:
- Oysters are known to clean the ocean! They filter the ocean and clean out pollutants, therefore improving water quality. A pretty good reason to eat more Oysters. 
- Farming Oysters (sustainably) helps the environment. 
- Oyster Shells can also be used for compost. 
- The first recorded appearance of the Ostrea Edulis Oyster Species dates back to the Miocene (’15.91 to 0.012 million years ago.’) 
The prized Oyster of Mali Ston has been sustainably harvested for generations. Much thought and consideration has gone into the importance of incorporating the ‘Oyster’ in my children’s picture book, My Grandma is Like the Sea. Hopefully you now have a greater understanding of the life of an Oyster, and means to share it in a way you deem fit with others, including our children – who are our future.
- 50 things to do in Europe before you die. Conde Nast Traveller. June 2015.
- Mali Ston Oyster. Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.
- Oysters from Mali Ston become 28th Croatian product awarded EU protection. Croatia Week. October 2020.
- 200 year old deep sea Oysters found in Irish waters. BBC. November 2013.
- Mali Ston Oyster. Slow Food Foundation for Biodiversity.
- Oysters in Bay of Mali Ston. Only Croatia.
- Oysters: nature’s water filters. The Nature Conservancy Australia.
- Why farming Oysters is sustainable and good for the environment. Independent. September 2017.
- Why you should prepare a seafood dinner for your soil. The Washington Post. March 2016.
- Ostrea Edulis. Wikipedia. 2020.
- A delicacy that makes you feel alive. BBC. December 2015.
- How do Oysters make pearls? Natural History Museum.
- What we can Learn from the Oyster. Nala’s Den. 2021.
- Dubrovnik Oysters. Viking Oceans.
- Historical-town planning ensemble of Ston with Mali Ston, connecting walls, the Mali Ston Bay nature reserve, Stonsko Polje and the salt pans. UNESCO.
- Building Dubrovnik’s Wealth: The White Gold of Ston. Sun Gardens Dubrovnik.
- Ston: History and gastronomy behind ancient walls. Yachts Croatia. August 2020.
- Mali Ston – A True Treasure. Nala’s Den. 2021.