RRRR…It’s April and for many connoisseurs of raw wild oyster it’s the last “r” month before summer to suck up tastier bivalves. If you’re part of the oyster cult, you’re living in the right place. The species known as the eastern oyster has grown in the Gulf for the past 200 years in abundance thanks to a good combination of salt and fresh water. With some 30 harvest areas throughout the state, Louisiana oysters are sought after around the country for their size, tender consistency and mild taste.
The “r” Months- Myth or Not
The spawning season for oysters in the Gulf of Mexico occurs several times May through November when the water temperature is above 68 degrees. In the warmer months of the summer, wild oysters are found to be less appetizing because they are reproducing during that time and are full of gametes (eggs and sperm.) While in the winter, they are growing and fatter, rendering a sweeter meat. But also in the warmer months, the Centers for Disease Control says there is a higher presence of a bacteria called vibrio vulnificus, which is why there are strict guidelines on harvesting and refrigerating them. Steaming them is the healthiest and safest way of preparing them because it will also help kill any harmful bacteria present.
The Bed That is “Just Right”
Oysters from the Gulf tend to be large and mild, not because the Gulf is less salty than the Atlantic or Pacific but because there’s a lot more freshwater inflow around the oyster beds here. However, when too much freshwater enters their normally salty areas, like it did in 2016 when excessive rains and flooding brought vast amounts of freshwater into oyster reefs, they cannot survive – and oyster fishermen are out of business. On the other hand, if the salinity is too high, predation and disease can occur. Oysters grow their best in just the right combination of fresh and salt water mix.
The way they grow is quite fascinating, with water flowing through them. As they pump it through their gills, they collect particles of food or other nutrients they need to grow. Oyster experts at LSU Sea Grant have found that the ideal depth to grow them is 4 to 6 feet, where they can best capture plankton and other similar sized particles by filter feeding. Their color is a reflection of what they eat and their flavors vary from those in the wild, farmed in cages above the Gulf floor or dredged from the bottom.
Oyster season usually lasts all year for those who fish in private oyster beds. For public oyster areas, the season runs from the first Wednesday after Labor Day to April 30 the following year.
If you don’t eat oysters, their nutritional benefits just might convert you. A 3.5-ounce serving is only about 60 calories and contains protein, iron, vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids. According to LSU Ag Center reports, one raw oyster contains a variety of necessary vitamins including small amounts of vitamins A, B6 and C, almost 5 percent of the daily requirement of protein and a whopping 133% of vitamin B12. They are found to have a high amount of zinc (with six medium-sized ones providing 291% of the daily value) iron and Vitamin D, all of which Americans have be found to be most deficient.
The National Heart and Lung Institute suggests including oysters as a part of a low-cholesterol diet because they contain such a balance of lipids, carbohydrates and protein. Compared to poultry, raw oysters are lower in fat, cholesterol and calories.
Buy Certified Louisiana Oysters
The Vermilion Bay Sweet oysters sold by DelcambreDirectSeafood.com are high-quality, fat and juicy, shucked oysters that are fished in the parishes of Lafourche, Plaquemines and St. Bernard and packaged by Corina Corina Seafood in Galliano. The vacuum-sealed packs of 24 are flash frozen in an ultra-low, -40-degree F process to lock in the fresh Gulf sweetness.
Learning to like oysters might mean just finding a way of preparing them that appeals to you. There are as many ways to enjoy them as you can other seafoods: raw, fried, baked, broiled, stewed, in gumbo, bisque, in dressing and chargrilled. Rather than offering a recipe, this time we suggest these ideas for eating oysters:
-Add fried oysters to a BLT sandwich.
-Or make deviled eggs extra special with a fried oyster on top.
-Try one of the chargrilled oyster spice blends that are on the market.
-Sometimes simpler is better. There’s nothing like a raw oyster on a piece of grilled French bread with butter.
-An ice-cold beer is a great complement to raw oysters, but try champagne or a dry martini.
NOTE: Oysters freeze very well and keep their flavor when thawed correctly.