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Oyster leaves

It's like discovering a new vein of gold in an old mine. Like finding that the last biscuit in the barrel has not been eaten already. 

For a cook, learning of a new ingredient is like adding another few notes to the keyboard would be for a musician.

And like any 'first-time' experience I will now always remember that I tasted my first oyster leaf (yes, this is what the fanfare is all about) at JPB restaurant in Sydney's Swissotel, courtesy of chef  Joshua Askew.

One taste, and it's a no-brainer to know how these innocuous silver grey leaves acquired their name. There's a touch of salt, a mineral aftertaste and when paired with a lemon myrtle 'caviar' as Josh did, well, the identity switch is complete.

Oyster leaf, or Mertensia maritima is a species of flowering plant in the borage family, and also goes by the common name of oysterplant or sea bluebells. You can see why it has the latter name from the picture at top.

It grows wild in the northern parts of Canada, Greenland and Scotland, and was little known until some influential European chefs such as Ferran Adria started to play around with it on their menus.

They became an instant hit, as blindfolded, you would swear you were eating something with oyster in it.

While originally only foraged along coastal areas, Viridian Farms outside of Portland, Oregon, soon began to cultivate the leaves once interest was shown.


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