It happens every year about this time. Oppressive heat and humidity and general grossness make us nostalgic for the heady days of mid-April, when the temperature was mild and just about everything was newly in (or coming into) season. But one favorite was just on its way out, and right about now we miss it terribly.
Fortunately, there is hope yet for oyster lovers.
Traditional wisdom states that you must not eat oysters during months without the letter “r” in them. That is to say, summer months. A few years ago, while researching this story for the San Francisco Bay Guardian, we learned that that had to do with the oysters’ spawning season–they get all milky and weird when they spawn.
According to this little New York Times item from earlier in the week, oysters and other shellfish — especially local harvests — can become contaminated from summer algae blooms or “red tides.”
But there is hope yet, oyster lover. You don’t have to wait until September to slurp. One thing we learned during our trip to the San Francisco Bay Area’s oyster country is that some local farms are growing imported varieties, such as Kumomotos, from Japan, which spawn in alternate months from our North American regulars.
Also, as the Times points out, government regulations prevent aquaculture outfits from selling shellfish grown in contaminated water. Many growers finish their oysters in clean-water tanks, which flush out contaminants.
So there you go, you can totally eat oysters in the summer if you order the right kinds and make sure you go through government-regulated suppliers. The Oyster Guide website has a bunch of farms listed. Some even do mail order.
Being There: In The Raw [San Francisco Bay Guardian]
The Claim: Never Eat Shellfish in a Month Without an R [New York Times]
Where to Order Oysters [The Oyster Guide]
[Photo: The walrus and the carpenter from Alice in Wonderland via superfluous consonants/flickr]