For those who enjoy eating seafood, they’ve probably come across oysters. The shell may look unappealing, even unappetizing, with its rough, coarse, and sometimes sharp surface, irregular shell shape, and the jelly-like content inside. But people who love oysters attest that this is a very satisfying food to eat.
Oysters live in marine or brackish habitats. There are many different families of salt-water bivalve mollusks but we generally call them oysters. Edible oysters come from the family Ostreidae belonging to the genera Ostrea, Crassostrea, Ostreola, Magallana, and Saccostrea.
Dimyarian oysters (Dimyidae)
Feather oysters (Pteriidae)
Saddle oysters (Anomiidae)
Spiny oysters (Spondylidae)
True oysters (Ostreidae)
Windowpane oysters (Placunidae)
- Some oysters are for eating, while others are for producing pearls. Others are valued for their shells like windowpane oysters.
- Oyster – the term originating from the French oistre – was officially an English word by the 14th century.
- The best when it comes to opening the most oysters in one minute is Canadian Patrick McMurray, who owns the Guinness World Record for this feat.
- August 5 is National Oyster Day in the US.
- A group of oysters is called a bed or oyster reef.
Oyster Buying Guide
You’ll find oysters sold in the seafood section of the market. It is common to find oysters sold near the farm where it is grown, or by the docks. You’ll normally see crates of oysters in the same part of the seafood section in the market.
You can also buy canned and frozen oysters. Canned oysters are already cooked so these are safe to eat straight from the can. Frozen oysters cannot be eaten raw. Use this as an ingredient for cooking.
Fresh oysters should feel heavy, which means the oysters have not dried out inside. Fresh oysters should also smell like freshly-harvested, still carrying that distinct smell you smell when you are in or close to a body of water. If you are inexperienced when it comes to buying fresh oysters and you want to be sure, it is best to have someone with experience accompany you.
Oysters are available all year long. However, availability may be affected by certain factors like bad weather, transportation, and delivery problems, etc.
Oyster Production & Farming in Texas
Texas is still in the stage of developing a stable and sustainable commercial oyster industry. According to Texas A&M AgriLife, Texas was the last to allow commercial oyster aquaculture resulting from the passage of two bills by the state legislature in September 2019. Since then, Texas has witnessed a steady rise in the number of applications for permits to grow oysters commercially. Growing oysters in Texas is an enterprise focused on the Texas gulf coast.
If you are eating oysters harvested in Texas, these were likely harvested from Galveston Bay.
There are no chemicals directly involved or used in the growing and production of oysters. But pesticides and the use of chemicals have been mentioned as part of the plan to address problems affecting oysters.
There are calls for the use of pesticide imidacloprid to use against burrowing shrimps which, according to oyster farmers, is the reason why oysters are suffocated, resulting in a loss in production and profit for farmers. A news report indicated that in Willapa Bay, 10,000 acres of oyster farming ground were lost as a result of shrimp infestation. According to another news story, stakeholders are working on developing an alternative control plan which will still include the use of chemicals.
Even if there are no chemicals used in growing oysters, there are factors that result in oysters being contaminated by chemicals. According to a Portland State University (PSU) study, wastewater discharge in Oregon and Washington result in oysters containing low levels of chemical contaminants.
Oysters are eaten all around the world. China is the leading producer of oysters sold in the global market. In the US, Louisiana is the biggest producer of oysters. Most of the oysters sold in the US are known as Eastern oysters, known for their briny taste. You can also find Pacific oysters, with a crispier texture and sweeter taste similar to cucumber.
Oysters are briny, flavorful meat. For many people, oysters are a delicacy. Eating oysters is not just for sustenance, it is also an experience, and it is common to see people eating oysters raw. If it is your first time eating oysters, try eating cooked oysters first. But if you want to go with fresh, uncooked oysters, just make sure the oysters are clean and you have no medical or health concerns that make eating oysters detrimental for you.
There are several ways to eat fresh oysters. Eating it “naked” means you eat it without adding anything. You can enhance the taste by adding a squeeze of lemon, or you can eat fresh oysters drizzled with chili flakes, vinegar, and minced shallots. Oyster is a great food to eat and it goes well with drinks like champagne, sparkling wine, gin, stout beer, tequila, dry white wine, margarita, and martini.
Oyster connoisseurs advise people to make sure to chew oysters when eating them, and not simply swallow. Chewing allows the oysters to release their true flavor profile, making it more enjoyable for people eating oysters.
Some people claim oysters taste better during particular times in the year, specifically around late fall to winter, and it has to do with how oysters are responding to the changes happening around them brought about by the weather or season.
An important skill to learn if you want to enjoy eating fresh oysters is shucking. This refers to opening the shell using a knife. It may sound easy, but to the uninitiated (and those who are careless), shucking is not just difficult but dangerous also, since the knife can accidentally cut your hand. Shucking is not necessary though if the oyster is served in a half shell; instead, simply use your fork and suck the oyster.
If you have a compromised immune system, or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding or have a seafood allergy, do not eat oysters.
If you are planning your diet to help you lose weight, consider oysters.
So you have leftover fresh oysters and you don’t know what to do so that you can still eat these some other time. You can refrigerate or freeze leftover oysters. The important thing to remember when the fresh oysters are refrigerated is to keep them alive. How do you do that? Put these in a bowl and put a damp cloth over it, covering the bowl. Do not put oysters over ice when storing them for days because they will die if they sit in freshwater for a long time. Check the oysters. If the shells are closed or if the shell closes when you tap it, the oyster is still alive. Throw away dead oysters; these are not good to eat anymore. Properly stored in the refrigerator, your oysters in the shell should remain in good eating condition for 10 to 21 days.
You can also store shucked oysters – oysters removed from its shell. Put these in an airtight container and make sure to keep the lid shut and never allow the refrigerator to increase temperature because shucked oysters need to be in cold storage. These will keep for 4 to 5 days.
Some people don’t think cooking is necessary when it comes to oysters. While eating fresh oysters is common, many oyster dishes require cooking.
You can bake it ala Oysters Bienville, fry it (like Japan’s deep-fried oysters called kaki), batter and pan fry it like South Korea’s guljeon, use it to make omelet like how they make it in Fujian, China, cook it with other seafood ingredients like shrimps or mussels, which is common practice in Thai cuisine. Or cook it Asian cuisine-style or Louisiana cuisine-style.
When cooking oysters, consider the ingredients that best compliment oysters, like eggs, mushrooms, butter, breadcrumbs, cornmeal, flour, pasta, olive oil, onions, garlic, and shallots, basil, parsley, oregano, spinach, red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, salt, Monterey jack, parmesan cheese, fontina, grated cheese, wine, beer, milk, Worcestershire sauce, ketchup, and a buttery roux.
An oyster is a high-quality protein source. Every time you eat oysters, your body gets calories, protein, fat, vitamin D, thiamine, niacin (vitamin B3, vitamin B12, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, and selenium.
Oysters also contain a recently discovered unique antioxidant called DHMBA or 3,5-Dihydroxy-4-methoxybenzyl alcohol. There is some research on how DHMBA can help improve liver health and help reduce bad cholesterol.
Eating oysters gives the body zinc, but overeating can cause zinc toxicity, which is bad for us. But keep in mind these things as well. Eating oysters can be the cause of bacterial or viral infections that can cause diarrhea, vomiting, fever, and blood infection. There is also the risk of ingesting heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and mercury.