by Shelbi Stoneback, content manager at Rodale’s
It’s oyster season again! But wait, is it really? When is oyster season? Should we buy farm raised or wild oysters? Will they really get my motor running, if you know what I mean?
When it comes to these popular mollusks, there are almost as many rumors floating around as there are oysters themselves. So what’s really fact and what’s fiction? I did some digging and found a few pearls of wisdom pertaining to 3 of the most common oyster questions…
1. Are oysters really an aphrodisiac?
Sometimes. Maybe. Very few scientific studies have shown that oysters can actually raise your sexual desire, but they could help spur it on. Oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, and zinc is a key mineral for sexual health in men—severe cases of zinc deficiency can lead to impotence. If you forgot the oysters tonight, Maca root powder also contains zinc, which has been known to increase libido.
2. Which is better for the environment, farmed or wild oysters?
One of the many environmental benefits of wild oyster reefs is increased protection against shore soil erosion. Reefs stabilize ocean shorelines, making them less susceptible to damage by hurricanes and strong storms. Being filter feeders, wild oysters also remove bacteria, sediments, and even oil spills from waterways, making oyster reefs cleaner habitats where shrimp, clams, snails, and crabs can find protection from pollutants. The improved water quality encourages seagrass growth, which creates better habitats for fish.
Unlike some fish-farming operations, which can allow nonnative marine species to invade surrounding ecosystems and spread disease, oyster farms can actually improve the quality of oceans and bays. That’s because the oysters in offshore farms will feed on particulate matter and nutrients that might otherwise pollute waterways. So favor farmed oysters when shopping; you’ll also avoid depleting wild populations that are at risk from those invasive crabs and snails.
3. When is the best time of year to eat fresh oysters?
In his book The Big Oyster: History on the Half Shell (Random House, 2007), Mark Kurlansky writes that the rule saying not to eat oysters in months without R’s in them was once true, in part because before modern refrigeration was invented, it was hard to keep oysters from spoiling in hot weather. But, he adds, oyster-lovers also noticed that oysters tasted best in cooler months because spawning, which takes place in May, June, July, and August, makes oysters translucent, thin, and less tasty. That still holds true today, although modern oyster-farming techniques are starting to work around flavor issues.
Bottom line: Enjoy oysters whatever the month, but expect peak flavor outside of spring and summer.
Bonus: What’s the correct way to shuck a raw oyster? Try this:
Shelbi Stoneback is the Rodale’s content manager, spending her days overseeing all things copy related. In sixth grade, she started a juice-box recycling campaign at her elementary school and has been championing sustainability and organic living ever since. She’s a hand model, loud whistler, and polar plunger, and also an avid sea glass collector and treasure hunter, with the prides of her collection being a great white shark tooth fossil, a message in a bottle, and several 19th-century pot lids.