Love ‘em or hate ‘em, oysters have been highly esteemed as luxuries from the earliest times. The Romans, indeed, those masters of the world and of the gastronomic art, considered no feast complete without them.
Oysters, like wine, take on unique tastes, texture and color depending on the specific area of the ocean they call home. Once harvested, so long as the oyster retains its natural juices, it will live out of water, provided the changes in the temperature are not too sudden. The moment the oyster opens its shells, however, the juices run out, and it should be consumed in short order.
"As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy, and to make plans." - Ernest Hemingway
Are oysters sustainable?
Oysters consume nitrates and ammonia, removing them from the water, which they then expel as solid waste pellets, which decompose into the atmosphere as nitrogen. One oyster alone is able to filter between 30-50 gallons a day. Oysters have been cultured for well over a century and are very beneficial to the surrounding ecosystem. So smile the next time you slurp down an oyster knowing that you’re helping restore the oceans! They’re good for you too! Oysters are excellent sources of several minerals, including iron, zinc and selenium, which are often low in the modern diet. They are also an excellent source of Vitamin B12. Oysters are considered the healthiest when eaten raw on the half shell.
What do oysters eat?
Oysters eat minute animal and vegetable organisms. Seawater contains an abundance of this sort of food, which is drawn into the gills with the water. As the water strains through the pores into the water tubes, the food particles are caught on the surface of the gills by a layer of adhesive slime. As soon as they are entangled, the microscopic hair-like projections on the gills strike against them in such a way as to slide them along the gills toward the mouth. When they reach the anterior ends of the gills, they are pushed off, and fall between the lips, which are also covered with thin hair-like projections, which carry the particles forward until they slide into the mouth. Feeding in a sort of endless progression, I imagine oysters live a very happy life.
How do oysters form?
Although the oyster lies upon the bottom with one shell above and one below, the shells are not upon the top and bottom of the body, but upon the right and left sides. The two shells are symmetrical in the young oyster; but after it becomes attached, the lower or attached side grows faster than the other, and becomes deep and spoon-shaped, while the free valve remains nearly flat. In nearly every case the lower or deep valve is the left. Any distinguished color the oyster may possess, is due to the color of its food and to the nature of the surrounding bottom.
Selecting and keeping oysters
Unlike most shellfish, oysters can have a fairly long shelf life: up to two weeks; however, their (decreasingly pleasing) taste reflects their age. Oysters should be refrigerated out of water, not frozen and in 100% humidity. Oysters stored in water under refrigeration will open, consume available oxygen and die. Oysters must be eaten alive, or cooked alive. The shells of live oysters are normally tightly closed or snap shut given a slight tap. If the shell is open, the oyster is dead, and cannot be eaten safely. Cooking oysters in the shell kills the oysters and causes them to open by themselves. Oysters that don't open were dead before cooking and are unsafe.
Should I only eat oysters in months that have an "r"?
Popularized by the movie, Alice and Wonderland, folklore says that oysters should be eaten only in months with "r's" in them—in other words, not the warmer summer months. This likely originated in the days when oysters where shipped without adequate refrigeration and could spoil. But today all that has changed and we can enjoy oysters twelve months a year.
How to serve Raw Oysters?
There are two ways to go here. The first is on chilled plates and the second is on ice. Either way keep the oysters cold prior to serving and keep them cold until eaten. The oysters will be happy, and you’ll be happy you did.
Oysters – Straight or dressed up?
This little gem is straight out of an 1897 edition of Good Housekeeping:
“It is quite English to serve raw oysters on the flat half-shell, but it is quite American to serve them on the deep shell. The American way is the best. Condiments? They were never intended as an accompaniment of the oyster, and are only used by country people. A suspicion of lemon; a dash of salt when the dealer has kept them covered with cracked ice, and the descending ice-water washed out all sea flavor; and, for palates grown callous, a dash of cayenne. Such abominations as ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, etc., should never be used.”
Personally, I like them plain sometimes and with a dash of Tabasco and a squeeze of lemon others. No judging; enjoy them in any way that makes you happy!
How to open oysters?
Hold it in one hand with the flat side up. Stick the oyster knife in the bottom (this may require some elbow grease!) and once you get the knife in scrape along the top to cut the muscle. Check out how easy this guy makes it look!
Where can I buy oysters?
Great question. The largest selection of oysters online can be found at ilovebluesa.com. And not that we’re biased or anything, but we have the most fresh oysters too! And if we can sneak in one more plug, we sell only the freshest, most sustainable seafood!
There are a ton of recipes for oysters out there, so get some fresh oysters and get shucking!