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Sometimes, I get a wild hair–and when I read about the Zeeland mussels, oysters, and the Oosterschelde lobster, I knew that I had to visit this Dutch province just for the seafood. After researching where to try the best seafood in Zeeland, I ended up deciding to visit Yerseke.
This cozy fishing village is one of the best places in Zeeland to try local Zeeland seafood. In this little guide to Yerseke for day trippers, I’ll be discussing the history of Yerseke, where to eat in Yerseke, and what to eat in Yerseke.
This guide is not vegetarian friendly, however if you care about where your food comes from, I hope that you can appreciate this article. I get that not everyone is comfortable with eating seafood (or meat), however I think that it’s important to know where our food comes from. I love supporting local businesses as much as possible.
If you’re into seafood, you must put Zeeland on your bucket list. This province in the Netherlands is famous for seafood in the Netherlands as well as around the world among people who know seafood. I’ll be going through some famous seafood dishes in Zeeland that you’ll definitely want to taste.
Even as someone who reads in Dutch and who is fascinated by local food cultures, I was surprised how little information there was about Yerseske in English. I’d recommend trying to make a weekend out of visiting Zeeland with a few hours in Yerseke at minimum. This is what we did as part of belated birthday weekend for my husband.
Yerseke isnot really known by non-Dutchies, but for Dutchies, it’s synonymous with oysters and mussels. Interesting, it was not always a fishing village as it used to be a city that focused on agricultural, however a flood in 1530 that killed over 100,000 inhabitants of the area changed everything. After numerous parts of Zeeland became underwater, Yerseke decided to embrace its destiny and fishing. Unfortunately, much of the historic town center was destroyed in World War II, however Yerseke is still a must see for foodies interested in Zeeland’s seafood.
The late 1800s began the significant demand for oysters. In Yerseke, the oysters flourished in the oysters pits that you can still see today together with the old warehouses that dot the main stretch along the harbor.
This ecosystem is quite delicate and thanks to one of the attempts to prevent flooding in the late 1800s, the Oosterschelde estuary has produced its own kind of lobster that is completely genetically unique from other lobsters in the world.
The majority of Dutch mussels and oyster companies are based in Yerseke, which which is why it’s worth visiting this fishing village as the Zeeland seafood comes here first. Visitors can even go out on the fishing boats for a ride around the harbor although we were personally content feasting on locally produced seafood. If you can visit Yerseke on the third Saturday of August, you can witness Mosseldag (Mussel Day), one of the biggest regional seafood festivals.
What to eat in Yerseke
If you’re coming here to eat Zeeland seafood, you have the right idea visiting Yerseke. Keep reading for what you need to know about Zeeland’s best seafood, including the Oosterschelde lobster, flat oysters (including the Dutch Imperial), Zeeland mussels, and marsh vegetables that you’ll find in Zeeland.
The Oosterschelde lobster (“Kreeft”)
The Oosterschelde lobster is the most rare food that you can try in Zeeland. As mentioned, this lobster, which is genetically distinct from other lobsters, has a characteristic blue band that you can only see while the lobster is alive. Any good restaurant will bring out the lobster for you to show you that you truly have the real thing. Ask if it’s the local Oosterschelde or just lobster in general if the menu doesn’t specify.
The lobster is only available from April to July, so order it if you see it. As these lobsters are so unique, they are only fished using sustainable low impact techniques to preserve them for the future. The Oosterschelde lobster
For trying out this delicate lobster, I can personally recommend Restaurant De Branding for a nice atmosphere and a delicious lobster.
The flat oyster
It’s worth noting that although European oysters used to be distinct from other types elsewhere, a bacteria has wiped most of the native species. As a result, you’ll find two oyster variants: the Japanese oyster and the flat oyster. The flat oyster is from the Netherlands–and it types a delicate taste that makes it distinct from the Japanese one.
Depending on your budget, you can try different varieties of Zeeland oysters. The Dutch Creuse is a popular oyster that mature more rapidly than other kinds (only 2-3 years) while the Dutch Imperial is the oyster that you want to try in Zeeland. The oyster is moved annually for up to six years to ensure that it is well nourished, which results in a delicate and peppery taste.
Both oysters are grown in the Oosterschelde and Lake Grevelingen. They’re moved often and only when they’re almost ready, they’re brought to the oyster pits of Yerseke. The oyster pits of Yerseke is close to the Oosterschelde, which makes it possible for the water to be refreshed with seawater daily prior to being weighed and inspected.
The best place to try oysters as well as quite a few other types of seafood is at de Oesterij, a casual seafood restaurant with limited seating and a view of the oyster pits. If you’re short on time, you can order raw oysters while standing outside. It’s also possible to take a tour of the grounds–or buy raw seafood to bring home with you at fair market prices.
Oyster season is from late August to April. I visited right around the end of oyster season, so luckily, I was able to try out some fresh oysters that were ready a bit late.
The mussels from Zeeland are referred to as “Zwart Goud” due to the prosperity that it’s brought to this region that is semi-separated from the rest of the Netherlands (by water).
Mussels are also a key industry, however mussels are generally caught off the coast in the wild. Mussel season in Zeeland runs from July to mid-April, so I definitely had to try the mussels.
Be sure to order a glass of wine with your mussels! Mussels in Zeeland are generally steamed and given to you in a giant bucket together with frites (with mayonnaise). I ended up going to Restaurant De Branding for mussels and I was impressed with the portion size. I ended up having to share about 1/3 of my food with my husband.
I personally don’t enjoy cockles, so I passed on trying them here. (Sorry!) However, cockles are a popular seafood from Zeeland. Cockles (“oentjes”) live in the sand and mud. They’re picked by hand and carefully monitored as they’re a key part of the delicate Zeeland ecosystem, which boasts many bird species. They’re best ordered in summer.
Sea aster and glasswort
Although my Dutch is passable, some things are just hard to explain in another language as we discovered after ordering glasswort. This salty vegetable grows naturally in salt marshes–and it’s absolutely delicious to snack on. Many seafood places in Yerseke will serve this with your meal. If not, ask. This is best had during summer.
Alternatively, you might encounter sea aster (“lamsoor”), which looks more like a thin spinach leaf. It’s also a species that thrives in the marshes. You’ll find this from late spring to early summer.
Where to stay in Yerseke
If you’re only visiting Yerseke for the day, it might be better to stay in Goes and just visit for the day as Goes is a larger city with more to offer. However, if you’re inclined and you’re looking for a relaxing night out with wine and seafood, consider staying in a former church turned bed and breakfast in the heart of Yerseke.
How to get to Yerseke
You need a car for Zeeland. Although the Dutch trains run out here, it’s much easier to get around by car. It’s easiest to take a day trip to Yerseke from Goes. For those without a car, there’s a bus linking Goes to Yerseke. Alternatively, Antwerp is only forty minutes away–and that’s where we came from.
Due to the shape of Zeeland, it’s sometimes faster to drive through Belgium than through the Netherlands. We had no problem parking for free close to de Oesterij.
Have you been to Yerseke? Have you tried Zeeland mussels/oysters?