Oysters were valued foods in antiquity so much so that wealthy Roman families paid top transportation charges to rush them from England, packed in compressed snow, in “high-speed” chariots on military highways. Soon astute Roam businessmen started to farm oysters near Rome.
Over time oysters lost their appeal and in the 19th century they were the food of poor Europeans, usually eaten raw or smoked.
These bi-valves thrive in the coastal and temperate waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, the eastern shores of North America from Nova Scotia all the way south to Virginia, and around the Gulf of Mexico. Japan has also oyster beds.
The soft oyster body is covered with two halves of hard shell held together by one abductor muscle.
There are pearl oysters and edible oysters ranging from 12.5 to 17.5 cm. in length, oblong or round. They take in enormous amounts of water to extract nutrition from microscopic food particles suspended in liquid. The water of oyster beds must be very clean to prevent disease.
taste best in cold months and from cold waters.
They are rich in protein, phosphors, iodine, calcium, iron and vitamins A, B, and C. Oyster beds exist in Rhode Island, Virginia, Louisiana, Washington State, Oregon, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Normandy, Japan and New Zealand.
Cold water oysters like Arcachon, and Belon form France, Malpeque from Prince Edward Island, Puget Sound (Washington State) are firm in texture, whereas those from Louisiana tend to be soft and relatively salty.
In Canada Malpeque, Bras d’Or, Nova belon, Golden Mantle, Olympia, and Kumamoto are well known and appreciated.
Blue P, (Long island new York), Lynnhaven (Florida), Wallfleet (Maine ), and others are much appreciated in the U S A and exported to Canda.
French love Arcachon and Marennes (Boerdeaux), Tourraine and Belon, Concale, Concarneau and St Brienc (Brittany), Normande and Fine de Mer (Normandy).
The best way to appreciate the salty tang is a drop of lemon juice, a glass of Chablis or Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire or New Zealand or Oregano or Ontario are highly recommended. Cocktail sauce literally kills the subtle flavour of the oyster.
are also marketed shucked and canned, smoked or fresh. They can be stewed, or breaded and deep-fried.
Open oysters should be checked for life by tapping them. If the shells close and remain closed they are alive.
Store oysters in the coldest part of the refrigerator or wrapped in a moist towel for a maximum of one day. Make sure to buy oysters from reputable fish mongers with a fast turnover to ensure fresh product.
The oyster bar in the Grand Central Station in new York is the biggest and busiest in the world.