5 Things You Didn't Know About Oysters

Categories: 'Eat'

hog-island-oyster-co-lara-hata-3.jpg
Lara Hata
I was an adult when I had my first oyster, though at 22 I was barely one. A local restaurant offered 50 cent oysters during weekday happy hours, and my friends and I started going because it made us feel like sophisticated high-rollers despite the fact that we were desperately broke (I couldn't even afford a glass of wine to go with them). But those first experiences awakened a lifelong love affair for the slimy bivalves, and I continue to seek them out at every opportunity. Especially Sweetwaters from Hog Island Oyster Co., the subject of this week's full review.

See Also:
- Hog Island Oyster Co.: Fresh Oysters Par Excellence, Not Much Else
- Oyster Species Guide
- Does it Make Sense for Vegans to Eat Oysters?

The more I write and learn about oysters, the more fascinating they become. Here are some of my favorite tidbits from my research over the years:

1. They taste like the place they come from.
You know how there are like a million different types of oysters at raw bars? There are actually only five edible oyster species (Pacific, Kumamoto, Olympia, European Flat, and Eastern) but their flavor varies so much depending on the place they're grown -- the merroir, as oyster nerds like to call it -- that a Pacific oyster from California can taste entirely different than a Pacific oyster from Washington. That's also why oysters are so often named after the geographic region where they're farmed. Except the Naked Cowboy, which is still my favorite name for an oyster ever.

2. The whole "months that end in R" thing is a myth.
Oysters spawn during the summer when the water temperatures are warmer, so the idea that you needed to avoid oysters in months that didn't end in the letter "R" was a handy bit of folk wisdom to keep people from getting sick in the days before refrigeration. These days, though, farmed oysters make up about 95 percent of the world's oyster consumption, and thanks to the wonders of technology, we can enjoy oysters year-round.

3. San Francisco Bay used to be coated with them.
In fact, the whole West Coast was blanketed with the tiny Olympia, the only oyster native to the Pacific west coast. But then the Gold Rush happened, and the local oysters that weren't consumed by hungry Easterners who'd come here to strike it rich were killed off by the silt runoff from the American river. Now they only exist in pockets in Washington and British Columbia. (For more on the Olympia, I highly recommend The Living Shore, food and environmental writer Rowan Jacobsen's slim volume about a quest for the oysters in B.C.)

4. They're great for the ecosystem.
Oysters are nature's water filters -- they filter the water around them for phytoplankton, and then pump it out cleaner. That's why they're so susceptible to pollutants, because they're essentially taking in poison along with nutrients. Oysters also stick to the same beds over generations, and their calcified shells form an aquatic apartment building for little sea creatures, which in turn feed growing salmon and other fish.

5. You can farm your own.
Out at Pickleweed Point on Tomales Bay, not far from Hog Island Oyster Co., aquaculturist Luc Chamberlain has opened a community oyster farm -- think of it like a pea patch of the sea. Community members pony up $100 and have the pleasure of raising their very own oysters from larvae to adulthood. The farm has also schooled local youth on the oyster farming process, which sounds like the best field trip ever. Interested would-be aquafarmers or visitors should check out the Facebook page.

Follow us on Twitter at @sfoodie, and like us on Facebook. Follow me at @annaroth.

Location Info

Venue

Map

Hog Island Oyster Co.

1 Ferry Building, No. 11A, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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18 comments
gogaranger
gogaranger

#2 is misinformation.  The reason to avoid months with the letter "R" is to avoid consuming any filter feeders during moths when large blooms of Dino-flagellates of the species Alexandrium are present.  Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) is one of the four recognized syndromes of shellfish poisoning, which share some common features and are primarily associated with bivalve mollusks (such as mussels, clams, oysters and scallops). These shellfish are filter feeders and, therefore, accumulate neurotoxins, called Saxitoxin, produced by microscopic algae, such as dinoflagellates, diatoms, and cyanobacteria.  The "R" months are when these species tend to be most prevalent and the filter feeders like oysters can become fatally toxic.

missyb
missyb

If you think "Months That End In R" is a myth why don't you come on down to the gulf coast and gobble up a few of our oysters raw in August.. Live a little. And then don't.Gulf oysters need to be eaten in the wintertime when the algae they're eating isn't lethal. That saying doesn't apply to water that stays cold all year long..

cqfood
cqfood

@wtseafood . So what about Rock Oysters like the Sydney Rock oyster?

vidovoarsanj
vidovoarsanj

@nomadscookies ali znam jednu,najbolje su one iz Dubrovnika

nomadscookies
nomadscookies

@vidovoarsanj I have heard the oysters in Dubrovnik are excellent. Can't wait to try some!

DubrovnikCom
DubrovnikCom

@nomadscookies Here a few facts about oysters from Ston http://t.co/CtJ6IX5s Are you in Croatia to explore our Mediterranean cuisine?

DubrovnikCom
DubrovnikCom

@nomadscookies True :) Enjoy your time here! Tweet if you need some info.

nomadscookies
nomadscookies

@DubrovnikCom Definitely the cuisine, but the beautiful Adriatic is not so bad either :)

DubrovnikCom
DubrovnikCom

@nomadscookies The oysters from Ston you mean :) Ston is a small town near Dubrovnik. Try them at the Sushi and Oyster Bar Bota Sare.

vidovoarsanj
vidovoarsanj

@DubrovnikCom @nomadscookies znam kako vam je ,i ja sam iz malog sela-grada,pa sam osjetljiva na to,al dobro,vidimo se u 11. mjesecu

DubrovnikCom
DubrovnikCom

@vidovoarsanj @nomadscookies nema problema :)

vidovoarsanj
vidovoarsanj

@DubrovnikCom @nomadscookies dobro,dobro,moje isprike,moja je bila greška,ispričavam se još jednom

nomadscookies
nomadscookies

@DubrovnikCom Thanks for the tip! I'll have to get myself down to Dubrovnik soon. LOVE me some oysters...

vidovoarsanj
vidovoarsanj

@nomadscookies OKI-DOKI I hope so soon,now I must work yet little,pozdrav

ninesnowboots
ninesnowboots

@DaisyEagan Allergic or just plain disgusted?

justineleonard
justineleonard

@Restaurantstime here's a sixth,if you don't cook it alive it will give you severe Leon trotski.........

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